THE NHS is looking for a chairman and two new non-executive directors to help run Huntingdon’s Hinchingbrooke Hospital after Circle Healthcare takes over its management in June.

Sue Smith, from Holme, who has been a non-exec since 1998 and chaired the Hinchingbrooke board since 2001, will stand down, along with the other five current non-execs. All will be entitled to offer themselves as candidates for the new board, the East of England Strategic Health Authority said on Monday.

"The successful applicants will take on unique performance management roles ensuring that Circle delivers the hospital's services to the levels specified in the franchise contract," NHS East of England, the strategic authority, said.

"They also need to ensure that patients' interests are squarely at the heart of decision-making.

But Mrs Smith confirmed yesterday (Tuesday) that she would not be seeking appointment to the new board.

"It's the end of an era for me," she told The Hunts Post. "I was originally appointed for four years, then for a further four years, then exceptionally for a further 18 months and then a further month to take me up to June.

"Then I shall hope to find something elsewhere, perhaps elsewhere in the NHS or in another non-executive position."

Mrs Smith, who presided over the rise, fall and rise again of Hinchingbrooke, said one of the best moments was reading a Hunts Post headline in 2007 announcing that Hinchingbrooke had been saved from downgrading.

"There are lots of exciting things happening at Hinchingbrooke now, and our aim is to hand over in a way that Circle can pick them up in June and carry on. We are working very hard to make sure that next year's plans are developed together so that there's a seamless change."

SHA chairman Sarah Boulton said: "These posts are a huge opportunity to shape the future. We are looking for experienced applicants who can protect the public interest and voice the aspirations of Hinchingbrooke's staff.

"It is a chance to lead this hospital through a ground-breaking period, driving up the quality of services. They will have the responsibility of governing what remains a public asset, and remain accountable to patients and the public.

"And, as Hinchingbrooke will be setting the standard that other hospitals in the country will follow, this is a fantastic opportunity to show national leadership. These are big jobs for big people. We want the best."

The passing of the management franchise to John Lewis style partnership Circle, for which the contract is due to be signed shortly, is intended by the NHS to become a template for other acute hospitals across the country.

"The chairman will be accountable to the Secretary of State [for Health], and the successful applicant will need to demonstrate that they [sic] have high level business acumen with a track record of achievement in a challenging, market driven business environment, while building alliances and working relationships with a range of stakeholders," the SHA said.

"They also need to show that they can scrutinise, through contract, an organisation with a significant budget and of comparable complexity.

"Candidates interested in the two non-executive director posts must be able to demonstrate exceptional financial or clinical skills."

INFORMATION: The advertisements appear on the Appointments Commission website at www.appointments.org.uk/Jobs.aspx. The deadline for applications for chairman is March 21, with interviews to be held on March 28, and for non-executives is March 24, followed by interviews on May 9.