One of the UK's smallest community trusts and its local GPs have set in motion proposals to merge and create one of the first primary care trusts in April 1999.

Andover District Community Health Care trust and six Andover-based fundholding practices have put together what they believe is the first formal expression of interest in primary care trust status.

The town's 30 GPs unanimously agreed to establish a project board to take the plan forward. They and the trust will discuss the proposal with North and Mid Hampshire health authority next week.

Primary care trusts are the most sophisticated of four options for the primary care groups set out in the recent white paper. They will be 'free- standing bodies' with responsibility for both commissioning and providing community services to their population.

Andover District Community trust chief executive Robert Sloane said the trust and the GPs had been developing models of joint working for three years. A letter to the HA signed by senior partners of Andover's six fundholding practices states: 'We very much welcome the government's white paper and see within it the potential to achieve further benefits for the populations we serve.'

The new trust would supersede the community trust and would run Andover War Memorial Hospital.

See Comment, page 19.