The Department of Health will not extend the deadline for primary care trusts to finalise plans for their provider arms.

The NHS operating framework 2010 set an end of March deadline for submitting proposals for how individual provider arms would be modelled, and a March 2011 deadline for implementing them.

The DH believes PCTs have had plenty of time to come up with proposals

But HSJ understands there is little sympathy at the DH over complaints from PCTs and primary care organisations over the timetable.

The PCT Network and others have made their concerns known to the DH that the deadline may lead to PCTs rushing through proposals that put structural change ahead of patient need.

But the DH believes PCTs have had plenty of time to come up with proposals since the Transforming Community Services programme was first announced and is frustrated with the lack of progress.

DH director of system management and new enterprise Bob Ricketts told HSJ: “There are no plans to extend the deadline.”

He pointed out that the previous deadline of October 2009, which was subsequently dropped, was first set more than a year ago in January 2009.

Mr Ricketts said: “The operating framework deadline of March 2010 represents a significant extension on this original deadline, giving PCTs 14 months to develop their proposals.”

Despite concerns that the timetable would result in the majority of PCTs opting for vertical integration with acute trusts, HSJ understands that only around a quarter have opted for merging with an acute and 10 per cent with a mental health trust.

The majority have opted for a range of horizontal integration options such as linking with other community providers, including GP networks, or becoming community foundation trusts.

Mr Ricketts said that proposals would only be agreed by strategic health authorities, in conjunction with the DH, if they “provide the best options for local services and patients”.

Mr Ricketts also said the department would “continue to engage with stakeholders to address any concerns” and “ensure that implementation and assurance processes are sound and proportionate”.