A primary care trust cluster in London has retracted letters sent to public health staff warning them their posts were “at risk”, after a minister publicly said it was wrong.

At least 10 senior public health staff had been sent at risk letters by the north west London cluster as part of efforts to reduce management costs.

But doctors’ leaders wrote to NHS London in December warning that government rules exempted most public health staff from such cuts and claimed the PCTs had reclassified staff as “corporate running costs” to get round the regulations.

Speaking at a conference last month, public health minister Anne Milton criticised the PCTs’ actions.

An NHS London spokesman confirmed that the letters had now been withdrawn, and that the cluster had “agreed a definition for certain roles within public health teams which should be excluded from the definition of running costs” at the end of January.

He said: “A number of public health staff whose posts now fall under the definition were originally issued with ‘potentially at risk’ or ‘at risk’ letters.

“These letters have now been or are in the process of being rescinded given the agreement of the definition for London.”

British Medical Association London regional council public health representative Justin Varney said: “There are still some tensions around the new cluster PCTs and the transfer of public health to local government, so it’s not all settled yet but things are looking more positive.”

But Dr Varney claimed “something similar” now appeared to be happening in Oxfordshire due to PCT clustering.

A spokeswoman for NHS Oxfordshire said: “Clustering arrangements are being discussed… and a consultation period is being observed. “

But she said: “No members of staff are formally at risk at present.”