Primary care trusts are going to have a leading role in commissioning services and ensuring the local accountability and transparency of planning decisions. It follows that PCTs should also have the research and development capacity for community research ('Time to debate the future of research in PCTs, letters,22 March).

The record of both community trusts and primary care R&D networks is like the curate's egg:

parts are excellent, but haphazard development and medical control of funding meant that coverage never reached all geographical or professional parts of NHS primary care. Now is the time to produce an equitable and responsive approach to evidencebased practice in the community:

Research governance is a new NHS requirement.

The R&D workforce capacity is under review by the NHS, within its workforce planning.

Social care and public health R&D are to be integrated within the wider system.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England is scoping the nursing and allied health professions' research nationally.

The Foresight healthcare panel has published its recommendations for national research priorities, many of which include community and family dimensions.

Primary care improvements are an NHS R&D priority.

Fledgling PCTs across England are still specifying new job descriptions and team structures.

During 2000, Barking and Havering health authority pioneered an inter-agency, local area-based strategy for R&D. A lesson for other areas is that the active and valued co-operation of all local stakeholders is essential for success. This includes the voluntary sector and all higher education providers.

Continuity of R&D from the community trust will be maintained through one of the new PCTs, within a wider partnership including three networks and a broad spectrum of academic expertise. In building partnerships with acute, mental health and community stakeholders (including service users) the HA identified new topics for research which could promote cross-body collaboration.

Woody Caan International Centre for Health and Society University College London London WC1