Health minister Alan Milburn has asked two trusts to re-examine merger proposals in the light of the government's white paper.

Gateshead Hospitals trust and Gateshead Healthcare trust submitted merger proposals to the Department of Health in October, saying a combined trust would be 'more responsive to patients' needs and more efficient'.

Managers were hoping a combined trust could be in place by 1 April, but have now been told Mr Milburn 'does not believe the current proposal takes full account of the opportunities presented by the white paper... for improving the integration of primary and community services'.

Both trusts have now been asked to report on 'how the benefits of the white paper might be realised locally'.

The reports are expected to look particularly at the development of primary care and the role of GPs, which will change radically under the white paper, The New NHS: modern, dependable.