The funding promised to 31 teaching primary care trusts will soon arrive and, with big plans in the pipeline, it comes at just the right time. Daloni Carlisle reports

The funding promised to 31 teaching primary care trusts will soon arrive and, with big plans in the pipeline, it comes at just the right time. Daloni Carlisle reports

The case of the disappearing money has been resolved. In the next few weeks, the 31 tPCTs should finally receive the£50,000 each promised by the Department of Health more than two years ago.

The long-awaited cash boost is to be targeted at the activities of the teams leading the education and workforce development programmes that make the trusts unique. 'It will make a significant difference,' says Ann-Marie Coyne, director of organisation development for East Lancashire teaching PCT and a board member of the tPCT Network. 'The£50,000 per trust signals a commitment to the future of tPCTs,' she adds.

The four waves of tPCTs set up since 2001 address workforce development issues such as implementing Modernising Medical Careers and skill mix.

The network covers all NHS disciplines, including administrative staff, and covers issues from new roles for healthcare assistants to support for refugee doctors and GP recruitment and retention schemes.

'We are doing stuff that would not happen under other circumstances,' says Ann-Marie. In Bradford, for example, the tPCT supported a new adviser role in general practice to help patients get their hands on hundreds of thousands of pounds of unclaimed benefits.

In Haringey, the tPCT has developed a community nutrition assistant role in which trained lay people work alongside community dieticians helping people to eat healthier diets. Salford tPCT is developing a governance framework for research and development.

Several tPCTs are working on creating primary care placements for trainee doctors. 'It's been very challenging and there has been varying success in getting primary care placements for foundation year two students,' says Ann-Marie. The East Lancashire tPCT approached it by appointing a project manager to work with the deanery and local GPs.

Making sure tPCTs survive is going to require solid ground work. All the new strategic health authority areas contain tPCTs and the network plans to identify leads to help each SHA support its tPCTs.

But the network has identified deep disquiet about how tPCTs sit with the fitness for purpose framework - for example, the level of recognition of the importance of tPCTs' education and research and development work.

In a paper released in mid-July the network says: 'It is clear that the framework does not sufficiently address the underlying issue of ensuring that leadership and systems are fully deployed to realise the benefits of workforce reforms and opportunities for local implementation of evidence practice.

'Furthermore, the framework does not take account of the additional organisational competencies that tPCTs have developed or the added value that can be gained from all PCTs by working in partnership with a tPCT.'

Ann-Marie says: 'Teaching PCTs are going to need to network their activities in a more co-ordinated way than before.'

www.networks.nhs.uk/networks/