18 July 2002 | Robin Parker
An attempt to recruit a procurement supremo for the NHS has been branded a shambles after the Department of Health (DoH) halted the selection process.
The DoH said it could not find someone good enough for the new post of commercial director to oversee more than £6 billion of NHS spending and run a 50-strong department, even though more than 70 senior procurement professionals applied.
It has also emerged that the annual salary of up to £95,000 was at least £20,000 less than the heads of the NHS agencies who would report to the new director.
The department's finance director told applicants he will "reconsider both the job description and person specification".
A DoH spokesman said: "The calibre of entrants was not good enough. We are now looking for other means of funding the post, and will re-advertise later, but we can't say when."
One senior purchaser with experience in the private and public sectors who applied for the post was incensed.
"I am baffled and outraged by the whole episode," he told SM. "It looks as though they haven't a clue what they want. It's a complete shambles at a time when the government wants to put improving the NHS at the heart of its next election campaign."
The new post was to address health minister Lord Hunt's recent attack on "unacceptable" standards of NHS procurement, and to help ensure the 43 per cent increase in spending over five years, announced in this year's budget, would be well spent.
The top end of the salary was about £10,000 less than that of Duncan Eaton, chief executive of the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency, and £20,000 lower than the highest-paid non-board member of NHS Logistics.
It also falls far short of the proposed salary of a new NHS IT director, reported to be around £240,000.
The DoH spokesman said the position would be re-advertised with a higher salary, but a figure has yet to be fixed.
But Jerry Smith, director of purchasing recruitment specialist Purcon, said the job specification said senior private-sector experience was "desirable".
"If they are attempting to attract leading senior purchasing directors from the private sector they will struggle to get them at this price."