Strategic health authorities have been warned not to impose their strategies on primary care trusts through the world class commissioning process.

The first of the "panel days", in which PCTs are quizzed on their strategic plans by SHA representatives, senior managers from PCTs in other areas and representatives from US healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente, took place last week.

But the NHS Alliance, which has been taking part in practice runs with PCTs, warned that world class commissioning must not become a means for SHAs to exert undue influence. Chair Michael Dixon said he had been "pleasantly surprised" at the potential for world class commissioning to "push community engagement and practice based commissioning".

Power centre

But he warned: "Quite a lot of the cards are in the SHAs' hands and the question is going to be, will the world class commissioning process distinguish between those that commission really well and those that don't, or will it be based on PCTs commissioning in the way the SHA thinks they should?

"I fear world class commissioning could be used by strategic health authorities as a way of imposing their own agenda."

At the meetings, PCTs outlined the 10 priorities against which they will be measured under the process. First reports were positive.

Manchester PCT chief executive Laura Roberts took part in a panel day last Tuesday. She said: "The day really allowed us to tell our story. We felt the panel played it with a straight bat. Clearly the preparation for the panel day is over and above the day job, but... it brings some crispness to your thinking."