All primary care trust and strategic health authority staff should receive a personal letter telling them “the expected destination (or destinations) of their current function” in the new commissioning system, the Department of Health has said.

Letters should arrive by the end of January next year. PCTs and SHAs are due to be abolished at the beginning of April 2013.

A letter from NHS Midlands and the East chief executive Sir Neil McKay, the national senior responsible officer for the HR transition, to PCT and SHA chief executives says: “We are all aware of the unsettling effect that the current changes are having on our staff and the need to provide them with as much information as we can about their future employment prospects.

“It is, therefore, proposed that all staff affected by transition receive a personal letter from their employer by the end of January 2012. This letter will outline the expected destination (or destinations) of their current function together with more information about the new bodies they may be heading towards and some timings of when the HR and people transition processes are likely to begin for them.”

It acknowledges that, “the future state is clearer for some parts of the new system than for others, and that for some staff it may not be possible to give as much certainty as we would like”. Sir Neil says letters should be issued to “all staff affected by the transition” on 31 January.

The letter says the DH is collecting information from “receiver organisations” - for example clinical commissioning groups, commissioning support units, and the NHS Commissioning Board - about “where your current functions are moving to”.

PCT cluster chief executives told HSJ in many areas the idea was unrealistic because the number and makeup of CCGs and CSUs had not been agreed, and it was not clear what functions would be taken on by the NHS Commissioning Board, for example.

One said in their area they had aligned most staff, so they would be able to give staff an “indication”, although not certainty.