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Health minister John Denham has praised community trusts that are already preparing to merge into primary care trusts.

He told a PCT 'roadshow' in London that community trusts in Peterborough and Hertfordshire were 'good examples' of restructuring 'to better support primary care groups to develop into PCTs'.

First-wave PCTs will go live next April, providing community and primary care as well as commissioning acute hospital services.

'Health authorities must begin to let go - allowing PCGs to fly and become PCTs,' Mr Denham said.

Andrew Williams, director of strategic development at North West Anglia Community trust, Peterborough, said: 'Our PCGs are recognised as leading- edge and we have worked hard to make sure they are a success.'

Community services managers have been restructured into four teams, one for each PCG area.

Trust personnel have joined PCG teams and boards, and former director of service development Audrey Bradford has been appointed chief executive of Fenland PCG.

She said all four PCGs were keen to move to trust status quickly and simultaneously in order to 'minimise disruption'.

The trust set up a group of its own senior managers and PCG chief executives to 'co-ordinate work for the consultation process' leading to PCT status.

Mr Denham has told Parliament that consultation on the first PCTs could begin as soon as September.

South Peterborough PCG chief executive Dr Lisa Llewellyn said PCTs could provide 'much more flexibility and local focus' than a large, dispersed community trust.

'If we prolong the process it would be much more uncertain for staff,' she said.

'And if we are going to make PCTs work we have to work with the community trust.'

In Hertfordshire, two acute and community trusts - East Hertfordshire and North Hertfordshire - are working with PCGs and the HA to develop primary and community services in readiness for PCTs. Jill Walker, East and North Hertfordshire HA director of community care, said it was keen to 'champion community services' in a complex reorganisation.

'With no single community trust it is more difficult to put a process into place,' Ms Walker said.

She added that she expects a PCT structure to be established 'if not from next April then certainly within a year from then'.

NHS PCG Alliance chief officer Mike Sobanja said it was 'vital' for community trusts to work with PCGs and PCTs if they were to avoid becoming 'dysfunctional organisations' as the local health economy changed.