The first wave of Primary Care Trusts will come into existence from April 1, giving local medical staff more control over NHS spending and care provision.
A typical PCT will control over 80 per cent of health spending on its local population and will be responsible for providing community services and liaison with hospitals and local authorities.
Control of PCTs, which have developed from Primary Care Groups, will be led by local GPs and nurses, who see and treat 90 per cent of all NHS patients.
Health minister John Denham said these professionals know the needs of their patients and where the current system could break down.
“PCTs will give GPs, nurses and other health professionals the opportunity to use every legal power to overcome these problems,’ he said.
The first 17 PCTs will have new powers to provide local health services such as community nursing, community hospitals and services for the elderly.
They will work with hospital doctors to determine how other services are provided and enable services to be delivered closer to patients. Another role will be to liaise with local authorities to improve the care of patients in the community.
PCTs will be established from April 1 in South Manchester, Daventry, Southampton East, Fenland, North and South Peterborough, Tendring, Epping Forest, Southend, Central Derby, Mansfield, North East Lincolnshire,Newark and Sherwood, Poole Central and North, Hillingdon and Nelson.
A second wave will come into operation in October.