Primary care trusts wanting their provider arms to become social enterprises will have to get their bids in by the end of next month, HSJ has learnt.

Social enterprise remains one of the options for community services under the transforming community services programme, as stated by the coalition government in its revised operating framework.

A Department of Health letter sent on 16 August to PCTs that have expressed an interest in the social enterprise scheme has set a deadline of 30 September for applying for its “third and final wave”.

A DH spokeswoman confirmed that the right to request social enterprise scheme - started by the Labour government in 2008 - would cease for PCTs on that date.

The setting of a final deadline suggests that in future social enterprises will form out of foundation trusts - in line with the white paper’s aim to make the NHS “the largest social enterprise sector in the world”.

Social Enterprise Network head of policy Ceri Jones said imposing a deadline for PCTs was “disappointing”.

She said: “We would hope that there will still be opportunities and support for staff working in all areas of the NHS and local authorities to set up a social enterprise.”

But PCT Network director David Stout said the right to request scheme had always been hindered by staff concerns about pay and conditions.

Mr Stout said “from here on in” applications to become social enterprises would “emerge from foundation trusts”.

Right to request bidders whose applications are still being considered by April 2011 could be put in a temporary holding company. But one manager told HSJ this could mean staff being moved under the transfer of undertakings (protection of employment) regulations twice in a year, to the holding company and then to the social enterprise.