The NHS Executive is being forced to withdraw an information pack for potential primary care trust board members that sparked a row in the runup to the launch of guidance on the governance arrangements for PCTs this week.
The pack said chairs would be paid£15,000-£20,000 for three or three and a half days a week - the same as health authority and trust chairs. But PCT supporters said the pack was 'completely wrong' because it did not take account of the different role of PCTs.
Clive Parr, chief executive of the National Association of Primary Care, said: 'The pack should reflect the fact that the board will be somewhat different from other trusts in the NHS. It will operate more as trustees do, holding people to account.'
A Department of Health spokesperson said it was 'of course not the case' that arrangement would mirror those of other chairs in the NHS. He said the packs would be corrected in December.
The guidance is expected to set firm guidelines for the relationship between the board and an executive committee of up to 10 clinicians plus the director of finance and chief executive.
NAPC chair Dr Rhidian Morris said: 'The relationship between the board and the executive committee is crucial. It is not the relationship of a current trust board to its clinical directors. PCTs have to be led by professionals.'
NHS Primary Care Group Alliance chair Dr Michael Dixon said that if PCT chairs were appointed on 'a conventional HA agenda', a 'massive amount of power' would pass to the chief executive.
The NHS Executive is likely to reject pleas from Dr Morris for protected executive committee places for lay representatives and social workers.
Barrie Brown, primary care secretary of the MSF union, said PCTs must not 'stack' the executive committee with GPs. 'We would resist fiercely any suggestion that GPs should have the majority.'
But Mr Parr said doctors and nurses 'would like a hands-on role in the running of the trust'. It was important that the government carried doctors with them 'down the PCT road', he said.
Mr Brown said arguments about who would control PCTs meant the NHS Executive 'had had some difficulty with producing a document that wasn't prescriptive enough to cause an uproar'.
PCGs will be able to become PCTs from next April. Up to 19 PCTs are expected to start in the first wave, with more following in October. The NHS Executive has allowed potential PCTs hoping to start work in April to suggest their own governance arrangements.
Three PCGs bidding for PCT status in Hillingdon, west London, have proposed a board with five doctors and nurses, including all the existing PCG chairs, as well as seven lay members.
Each existing PCG would be represented by a separate executive committee.
PCT project manager Jules Fulcher said the system would give it a 'federal' structure which would be 'responsive' to medical and nursing professionals.
Human resources guidance also due this week is set to tell PCTs to use personnel advice from HAs and trusts, not outside bodies, and must give union activists access to colleagues in other PCTs.
The British Medical Association last week called for GPs to be balloted on PCTs. At least 80 per cent should vote with two-thirds in favour before a PCT should go forward, it said.