Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has named Professor Malcolm Grant, President and Provost of University College London (UCL), as his preferred choice as chair of the NHS Commissioning Board (NHSCB).

Prof Grant is a barrister and academic lawyer with wide experience of public service, including the Local Government Commission, Higher Education Funding Council for England and as a UK Business Ambassador. He said he was "honoured" to be named as the preferred choice for "this vital role."

"I am passionate about the NHS and see the Commissioning Board as playing a key part in delivering a service which meets the future needs of patients and of the nation," said Prof Grant.

"We need to build on the very best of NHS qualities of dedicated public service, professionalism and pride, and seize the opportunity to create long-term stability and focus on getting constant improvement in quality and openness to innovation," he added.

Mr Lansley said that Prof Grant "has distinction and authority, is outstandingly capable and has excellent leadership skills, demonstrated by his success at UCL. He has a strong track record of delivery in complex public-sector organisations, and shares the public sector ethos and values of the NHS."

The Health Secretary added that he looked forward to Prof Grant "bringing his characteristics of leadership, independence and strategic direction to the role of chair of the Commissioning Board, as it supports the development of clinical commissioning groups [CCGs] and secures for the NHS continuous improvement in the quality of services, reduction in health equalities and delivers integrated, responsive services which are vital to meeting the needs of patients and achieving the world-leading outcomes to which we aspire."

Doctors' leaders had expressed the hope that the post of NHS Commissioning Board head would go to a general practitioner (GP), with Dr Michael Dixon, chairman of the NHS Alliance, calling in July for a "grand gesture" by the Board to show that "they are changing and not just saying they are, but showing it by putting a GP at the top."

Prof Grant appears in from of the House of Commons Health Select Committee today at 10.30 am, in a pre-appointment scrutiny hearing. He is expected to take up his new, two-days-a-week post at the end of this month.

- NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson has already been named as the Board's chief executive.