I write as chair of the human resources focus group for primary care trusts. I read with disappointment your news story 'No agreement on HR as PCT deadline nears' (24 June).

There are many HR issues to resolve and we are making significant progress. There is a clear understanding between the NHS Executive, managers and the unions about what is needed for a smooth transition to PCT status.

We are finalising initial guidance outlining key HR requirements for PCTs. This will be issued in July. Further comprehensive HR guidance for PCTs will be issued in November.

These timescales have been agreed with the unions and the other focus group members. This guidance will develop the best HR practice for setting up primary care groups issued as HSC 1998/139, and will take into account the development of PCGs from health authority subcommittees into PCTs as freestanding statutory bodies with new flexibilities and freedoms.

Similarly the 'organisational development resource for PCGs' has established the basis for best practice on key organisational development issues. Further guidance will support the organisational development of PCTs.

The issues in your article have already been discussed at national level. The HR agenda is complex for PCTs, but through effective partnership working and full use of HR networks set up as part of the Working Together programme, new challenges will be addressed positively. I welcome constructive discussion that will inform these important developments in primary care.

Steve Barnett Chair of the HR focus group for PCTs NHS Executive