The pace at which primary care trust staff are assigned to commissioning consortia should be determined by local management cost saving targets and the readiness of GPs to take up their new responsibilities.

The guidance comes in advice issued to strategic health authorities and primary care trusts on how PCT staff should be “aligned” with commissioning consortia.

The guidance, from NHS East of England chief executive Sir Neil McKay, follows NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson’s instructions in December for PCTs and SHAs to assign employees “wherever possible” to emerging commissioning consortia.

The timeframe for this has been extended slightly. Those staff assigned by June will be part of an “initial” wave to be followed by a “further assignment” by an undisclosed date. A third phase will involve PCTs and consortia preparing staff transfers, including the legal duty to consult on moves involving transfer of undertakings (protection of employment) regulations.

Whether or not staff will be transferred under TUPE arrangements will be decided case by case.

The guidance states: “The timing of the phases will particularly reflect the differential pace of development in local emerging GP consortia and the timing of the management cost reductions in the PCTs.”

It also clarifies that “all parties”, as opposed to just PCTs, will be jointly responsible for minimising costs and avoiding necessary redundancies.

There is little direction over how employees should be selected for assigned roles, other than that “clear and transparent criteria” should be used.

Some may be assigned without any “competitive process”, according to the guidance.

The guidance also confirms that consortia cannot be a private company or private corporate entity of any kind.

Emerging commissioning consortia that are in this form because they have grown out of practice based commissioning groups that were originally established as community interest companies, or limited liability partnerships, will have to reconstitute themselves to carry out statutory consortium functions.