Published: 04/04/2002, Volume II2, No. 5799 Page 5

Health minister Jacqui Smith this week announced the launch of the first four care trusts, a key plank of government policy to improve joint working between the NHS and social care.

But the four include just one primary care-based care trust - that in Northumberland, made up from the area's four primary care groups and adult social services from Northumberland council. Most former Northumberland health authority staff are also transferring to the care trust.

Dr Peter Mitford, consultant in primary care at the trust, said: 'We have gone straight from four primary care groups and the HA to a care trust' with a 'very strong locality focus'. The trust has four locality directors based on the former PCGs.

But the other three - in Manchester, Bradford and north London's Camden and Islington - are mental health and social care trusts. While the NHS plan described care trusts as 'a new level of primary care trusts'which would require 'changes to the governance arrangements' of PCTs 'to ensure representation of health and social care partners', mental health and social care trusts were first outlined in a separate section of the plan.

Dave Lee, project manager of Camden and Islington mental health and social care trust, said the new body had been formed from the former Camden and Islington trust, with around 200 staff from the London boroughs of Camden and Islington either transferring or being seconded to the new organisation.

The move was 'a further logical step' after several years of jointly managed services and joint teams between the NHS and the two councils. 'It is the top level of governance that the care trust changes, ' Mr Lee said. Four of the new body's seven nonexecutive directors will come from the two local authorities.