AS health Ministers struggle to find a pen to sign off the franchising arrangements for Hinchingbrooke Hospital, the NHS is having a second shot at trying a find a part-time chairman for the hospital trust board to oversee the contract.

John Lewis-style partnership Circle had been scheduled to take over running the 27-year-old hospital on June 1, but that was put back to July 1 when Ministers, beleaguered by opposition to other proposed NHS reforms, decided they had more urgent things to do.

They were originally expected to sign of the final business case for the 10-year franchise in February, but the delay has been so long that even the July date cannot now be met.

A DoH spokesman told The Hunts Post: "The department is considering the business case and will announce a decision in the next few weeks."

That makes what was until recently an urgent need to appoint a new trust chairman slightly less pressing.

NHS East of England last month interviewed two short-listed candidates for the part-time job whose principal task will be to monitor Circle's performance against the franchise contract.

The £18,437 post will initially involve about one day a week, reducing to two days a month after six months when the franchise is up and running, the advertisement predicts.

"Preference will be given to applicants who live in or have strong connections with the Huntingdon area," the Appointments Commission says.

In the meantime, the appointment of a new chief executive, who will work initially under the current NHS governance arrangements, could be announced later this month. Circle has been consulted throughout the selection process.

INFORMATION: Potential candidates for the part-time chairman's post can have an informal and confidential discussion with NHS East of England's project director, Andrew MacPherson, on 01223 596857. Closing date is noon on June 2.