The move represents a softening of the DoH line on the need to separate PCTs' provider and commissioning functions.
But it does mean that GPs directly employed by trusts will be waiting longer to find out whether they are to be farmed out to private companies or social enterprises.
PCTs were originally told to come up with plans for how to spin off their community service provision by October 2009. The options on the table include creating a social enterprise and integrating them with other NHS organisations.
But in a letter sent to PCT and SHA bosses, NHS chief executive David Nicholson said that 'we will take a more flexible approach to the timetable'.
SHAs will now be in charge of deciding a timetable for developing and testing the plans, he said.
'This does not represent a change in policy,' he added. 'It is about keeping PCT decisions safe while moving faster, not slower, to deliver transformation.'
The DoH previously expected all PCTs to spin off their pro-vider arms into entirely new bodies.
But it has recently softened its stance. PCTs are now able to retain their provider functions, where there is 'strong leadership' and 'proper and sufficient separation from commissioning'.