Primary care trusts have disputed government data on their administrative and management spending.

Department of Health figures suggests some PCTs are making up to 8 per cent of their expenditure on managerial, administrative and maintenance staff.

The government has set a target for PCTs and strategic health authorities to cut their management costs by 30 per cent by 2013-14

A breakdown of each NHS organisation’s spending on non-clinical staffing suggests a total of £2.4bn was spent by PCTs in 2008-09 - 3.2 per cent of their total operating costs.

The government has set a target for PCTs and strategic health authorities to cut their management costs by 30 per cent by 2013-14, which would equate to some £726m nationally.

But PCTs contacted by HSJ said the figures were not comparable.

For example, the figures record NHS Isle of Wight as spending the biggest part of its income on management and clerical staff, spending £19m - the equivalent of 8.3 per cent of its total operating costs of £229m.

But chief executive Kevin Flynn claimed the figure was not comparable, as NHS Isle of Wight was both a commissioner and a provider of hospital, mental health, ambulance and community care services.

Peterborough PCT similarly claimed its 7 per cent figure - ostensibly the fourth highest in England - was inflated due to integration with its city council’s adult social care department.

However the questioning of the data cut both ways.

NHS Buckinghamshire is recorded as having the lowest spending with just 0.4 per cent of its budget going on non-clinical staff. But a spokeswoman confirmed over £7m in staff spending had been missed off.