A survey has revealed that some NHS trusts are not processing any bills within 10 days and others are barely managing to pay a fifth within 30 days.

The Forum of Private Business found at least five NHS trusts paid fewer than 1 per cent of their bills in 10 days over the past year. At least 35 trusts processed fewer than 10 per cent within 10 days.

The FPB used the Freedom of Information Act to reveal the figures, more than a year after all public bodies were urged to pay bills within the timeframe to help small firms through the recession.

It found some trusts paid more than 90 per cent of their bills within 10 days, with Tameside Hospital Foundation Trust in Lancashire emerging as the best-performing trust in England in this frame, paying 94 per cent of invoices within 10 days. Three trusts in London and the South East were joint worst on this count, all reporting 0 per cent figures.

The Dudley Group of Hospitals Foundation Trust in the West Midlands was the best for 30-day payment, processing 99.9 per cent of bills within a month.

FPB spokesman Phil McCabe said: “We appreciate that, to organisations which save countless lives every day, the speed with which they pay invoices from small businesses may not be their first priority.

“But the better-performing trusts show that prompt payment is entirely possible and shouldn’t cost anything extra to implement.”