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

A lone primary care group has held onto its PCG status as its counterparts across England became primary care trusts on 1 April.

Witham Braintree and Halstead PCG has instead opted to move direct to care trust status, which it expects to secure by October.

Chief executive Jane Griffiths described the group's position as the last remaining PCG as 'exciting'. She said: 'As we have thought about the organisation developing and changing, We have focused very much on services for the locality and a lot of partnership working.' This led to interest in the care trust model, promoted in the NHS plan as 'a new level of primary care trusts'.

But Ms Griffiths said: 'We made a definite decision. We thought organisational change for its own sake wasn't the route we wanted to go for - [instead] it was to concentrate on local services and make one change - straight to a care trust.' The care trust 'would have been live today' had it not been for delays to the necessary legislation and the PCG's wish to hold a 'proper consultation'.

Ms Griffiths said: 'It has been hard work - It is no good pretending it hasn't been. But the thought of forming a PCT board and then forming a care trust board was awful. It just takes your eye off the ball on service delivery.'

The PCG has just completed its care trust application, which Ms Griffiths said had included both a PCT and a care trust assessment to ensure fitness for purpose.

Its status for the next few months will change from being a sub-committee of North Essex health authority to being a subcommittee of the new Essex strategic health authority, itself still in shadow form pending the passage through Parliament of the NHS Reform Bill.

Ms Griffiths said: 'Budgets are still being allocated in exactly the same way and managed in exactly the same way... I do not think We are going to notice much difference.'