The Department of Health has reversed its December decision to let six primary care trusts continue as direct providers of their community services.

Six PCTs - Cumbria, Stoke-on-Trent, Tower Hamlets, Knowsley, Wirral and Isle of Wight - were given permission six months ago under the old government to remain direct providers under the transforming community services reform.

However, the revised operating framework published last week stated that previous proposals for continued direct provision must be “reviewed and alternative options developed which secure separation”.

The Department of Health has told HSJ the six PCTs will have to conform to the deadlines set for the rest of the country. That states plans must be implemented or have seen “substantial progress” by April 2011. This leaves them barely more than nine months to develop and implement new plans.

A spokesman for the DH said: “We have been in contact with the strategic health authorities of the relevant PCTs about this and the same timescales will apply to them. We recognise that in these cases only substantial progress may be capable of being made towards implementation by April 2011 rather than full implementation.”

HSJ understands the PCTs involved are unhappy with both the tight timescale they now face and the time they had previously wasted on trying to keep direct provision, but are resigned to the changes.

NHS Stoke on Trent chief executive Graham Urwin said it was clear “direct provision is no longer an option”.

He said: “We will finalise our proposals with the SHA by 30 September for implementation by April 2011.”

NHS Cumbria director of corporate affairs Ross Forbes said: “We do not envisage that this reversal will cause any operational problems. The PCT is looking at the most appropriate options [for] our provider staff and community services. We are discussing these options with our trades unions.”

A spokesman for NHS Tower Hamlets in London said in a statement the PCT would be discussing “how we meet the requirements of this policy in a timely and effective manner” with NHS London, local GPs and trade union representatives.

A spokesman for NHS Wirral said: “We will be considering the implications of the operating framework and the forthcoming white paper and discussing options with our board, staff and GPs.