Successful bidders will take on budgets a year before PCTs are scrapped in April 2013.
The pathfinders will be part of a DoH evaluation of GP commissioning that will take several years, Mr Lansley told the National Association of Primary Care conference in Birmingham last month.
The DoH has earmarked £1 million for the scheme and pathfinder consortia could hold real budgets by early next year.
PCTs will receive bids this month and aim to identify the first pathfinders by December. Other consortia will be able to join on a rolling basis.
Dr David Jenner, PMS/GMS lead at the NHS Alliance, said the pathfinder consortia are likely to be established as a subcommittee of their PCT while legislation governing GP commissioning is passed.