Welsh health minister Edwina Hart has been urged to ensure primary care is protected as the structure of the NHS in the country is reformed.

The existing eight acute trusts and 22 local health boards are expected to be merged into seven or eight unified bodies as the assembly government implements its commitment to abolish the internal market.

Ms Hart will reveal more detailed proposals, including plans for a new national commissioning body, in September or October. Acute trusts already manage large parts of community care and could continue to dominate the new regional bodies.

The Welsh British Medical Association is calling for primary care funding to be protected under the new system.

Defining boundaries

BMA Wales secretary Richard Lewis said: "GPs fear that the removal of a boundary between primary and secondary care equates to primary and community care being subsumed into a large unified body that will fail to give primary care adequate priority."

But NHS Confederation Wales director Mike Ponton said the review could provide an opportunity. "There has been concern that we have been somewhat secondary care focused. One of the main hopes [with the reorganisation] is that it will provide more balance. All players recognise the need to improve community services," he said.

Ms Hart is expected to finalise proposals late this year or early in 2009. They could be implemented as early as April, but the Assembly government accepts the timescale could slip.