The Department of Health is set to tell primary care trusts they should stop establishing “shadow” commissioning consortia as limited companies.

The DH has agreed to issue guidance in response to concerns that some consortia are forming independent organisations, which would potentially open the door to commercial firms running commissioning.

Some practice based commissioning groups, which are now developing into consortia, have previously established themselves as companies.

For example emerging consortium Hunts Health was incorporated as a company last year under plans by NHS Cambridgeshire to devolve commissioning responsibility. The move began before the government’s reform programme was fully set out.

It is understood that some PCTs were considering using the model to delegate commissioning responsibility to shadow consortia before April 2013, when authorised consortia will be designated statutory bodies.

The British Medical Association GPs committee has asked the DH to confirm consortia would ultimately be statutory bodies, and meanwhile should not be established as companies.

BMA GP commissioning subcommittee chair Nigel Watson welcomed confirmation from the DH that this was the case.

He said this indicated the reforms did not intend to allow commercial groups to operate commissioning consortia.

Dr Watson also said shadow consortia would still “assume some responsibility and accountability and therefore some liability”, meaning they needed to be “adopted as sub-committees of [their] PCT”.

A DH spokeswoman told HSJ: “GP consortia will be statutory bodies once they are authorised. They will therefore not be community interest companies, unincorporated associations or limited companies.”

She said it would “not be not be possible for commercial organisations to act as commissioners” and that “we plan to issue guidance on this shortly”.