Department of Health officials refused to comment on the maximum salary they would be prepared to offer, although they admitted that the successful candidate would receive a "very impressive" payment package. A spokesman said, "It will be a very high salary. This is one of the biggest IT challenges ever."
Last month the Government advertised for a director general for the new NHS IT Programme, a major overhaul of Health Service IT which has been described as "the IT challenge of the decade".
Long-term objectives of the strategy include providing broadband access to all NHS clinicians and support staff by December 2005 and implementing domain-to-domain encryption. A national appointment bookings service is expected to be in place by December 2007, along with electronic patient records for all primary care trusts and hospitals.
Barry Latchford, founder partner of headhunting firm Barry Latchford Associates, which is handling the worldwide search for the IT tsar, confirmed that the recruitment process is proceeding apace. "We will be shortlisting with the Civil Service's top-level interview panel in the next couple of weeks," he said.
Latchford was unable to reveal any specific details but he confirmed that "there are some fairly heavyweight players in the frame".
He said, "The number of people that can do this role in the world will be in the tens, not hundreds, but we have talked to hundreds."