Some primary care trust and strategic health authority staff may be kept on for up to a year after April 2013 to help “close down” the abolished organisations, it has emerged.

Department of Health guidance sent to the bodies reveals the possibility of “an extension of employment for staff in agreed posts of up to 12 months from 1 April 2013”.

These staff will be in addition to the many current PCT and SHA employees who will have jobs in new NHS organisations from or before April.

The guidance, seen by HSJ, says organisations can request for “an individual or group of individuals” to be kept on if they are “required to close down a particular activity within the organisation being abolished [which] would be prohibitively costly to replace”.

The guidance document is called Retention Terms for Business Critical Staff and is an addition to existing guidance on retention and exit terms for staff during the transition.

It does not indicate what kind of functions will need to be maintained after April, but they are likely to include accounting and other financial arrangements for the abolished bodies, and other important “handovers” to new organisations, such as of risk management.

However HSJ understands there is potential for a wider set of staff to be included, for example where there is doubt or concern about how their roles will be fulfilled in the new commissioning system.

The number likely to be affected is unclear but it may run into hundreds. Since their organisations will be abolished the staff will have to be hosted by another body. The DH guidance says, “appropriate hosting arrangements are currently being considered”. It is thought likely the staff will be hosted by an existing national quango.

The guidance also allows for staff in a “business critical role” to be paid additional sums on top of their current salary – before or after April 2013 – for staff who “take on additional responsibilities or a wider portfolio” during the transition. It is designed to address fears that essential staff are leaving as their organisations’ abolition approaches.

The guidance says to qualify staff must be in a role which “if not filled, will result in an unacceptable risk to the organisation concerned”, and either have “scarce skills and knowledge that are only available amongst a very limited number of staff, if any, and there would be little or no likelihood, should the individual concerned leave, of recruiting or otherwise covering the post in question quickly and effectively”.

Requests will be reviewed by PCTs and SHAs.

Managers in Partnership chief executive Jon Restell welcomed the arrangements as “useful measures”, although he said: “There are some questions to resolve about how staff are hosted after [April] next year.”

He added: “Some of our members are already managing with much reduced staff, and maybe this is a bit too late for them.” Mr Restell said gaps were likely to lead to widespread use of interim management staff and consultancy during the transition.