The NHS in England has ringfenced close to £1.7bn this year to pay for a planned reorganisation.
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Service boss Sir David Nicholson said the money would be used to kick-start the process of switching control of budgets from managers to GPs.
Ministers insist the shake-up, under which 152 primary care trusts and all 10 strategic health authorities will be replaced by hundreds of GP consortiums, will generate long-term savings.
In a letter to NHS trusts, Sir David said he wanted to see the first pilot consortium set up this year, before a full roll-out by April 2013.
However health expert James Gubb from think-tank Civitas said: “This is a huge change and will take a lot of money to achieve because new organisations and frameworks have to be set up, staff laid off and new people recruited.”