Unified NHS boards could be up and running in parts of Scotland by the summer, well before the October date they were due to become formal entities, according to a newly appointed board chair.

The boards will replace the present 28 trusts and 15 health boards, as outlined in the Scottish NHS plan, and the appointments process for the 15 new boards has already begun, with advertisements being placed for chairs of 13 of the boards.

In Tayside and Fife, where new health board chairs had been appointed within the last 12 months, the existing chairs have already been appointed to serve the remainder of their period of office heading the new boards.

Esther Roberton, appointed chair of Fife unified board, said she had asked the Scottish Executive for permission to 'go live' as soon as possible, and hoped Scottish health minister Susan Deacon would give the go-ahead this week.

Ms Roberton said: 'We are almost operating as a full board.

We already have the leader of Fife council attending board meetings. We have said we want to get on and do it.' She would like the board to be operational by June.

Peter Bates, appointed chair of the unified NHS board in Tayside, said the chairs and chief executives of the Tayside health board and trusts were already meeting together weekly and jointly signing off strategic documents, as well as giving a 'clear lead to managers they must follow us'.

Mr Bates said the fact there was a chair in place meant 'we might just as well get on now'. He said the Executive would advertise for board members and 'we will run with what we can when we can'.

However, Unison, which claims to represent the largest number of senior managers in the Scottish NHS, has called for negotiations with the Scottish Executive. It has produced a negotiating agenda for senior managers to be discussed at a conference next week.

Unison wants a negotiating body to be set up to determine the terms and conditions of senior managers in Scotland, together with a review of the expectations placed on them, with a view to amending contracts to combat stress and long working hours.

Unison Scottish head of health Jim Devine said: 'Senior managers are seen as an easy target by the media. The crucial issue is that senior managers should be treated the same as any other staff.'