Published: 22/04/2002, Volume II4, No. 5902 Page 9

Primary care trusts are unable to carry out their statutory obligation to work with the police forces, fire services, and local authorities to help reduce crime, a conference heard last week.

Although PCTs were due to have plans in place from 1 April, the Department of Health has yet to issue guidelines and there are no new resources for PCTS to help meet the new requirements Hillingdon PCT chief executive Graeme Betts told delegates: 'We are only at the start of this process, and the first stage is demonstrating our commitment. Many PCTs still haven't thought about it.'

The event was organised by Hillingdon PCT as the first step towards meeting the new requirements. Under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, as amended by the Police Reform Act 2002 , PCTs will be expected to work with other 'responsible authorities' to map crime in their areas and develop and implement strategies to reduce it.

Department of Health guidelines on crime reduction for PCTs are still at draft stage. Conference organiser Shirley Goodwin, Hillingdon's deputy director of health strategy, said: 'I am not sure that PCTs have even been formally told of their new role. ... We get no extra money for this. The crime prevention role is not part of our performance targets.'

Potential pitfalls for health services in establishing closer working relationships with the police include breaching patient confidentiality and undermining therapeutic relationships.