A government report has pointed to significant variations in the amount primary care trusts spend on end of life care.

The second annual report on the Department of Health’s 2008 end of life care strategy, published last week, set out how PCTs had spent the £88m of government funds earmarked for palliative care in 2009-10.

The report suggests 12 PCTs spent more than £1m, with Hampshire and Lincolnshire Teaching spending the most at £5.4m and £4.4m respectively.

However, eight PCTs spent none of the extra investment on end of life care, according to the report. Seven of the eight - Mid Essex, Luton, Peterborough, South West Essex, Suffolk, Great Yarmouth and Waveney, and Blackburn and Darwen - are in NHS East of England’s area.

A spokeswoman for the strategic health authority dismissed the apparent variation in spending. She told HSJ the “apparent reason” the East of England PCTs were reported as having spent no extra funds on end of life care was because they had failed to respond to the DH’s request for information.

She said: “There are a number of programmes being undertaken in the East of England being led by the palliative and end of life care programme board.”

She highlighted local implementation of the Marie Curie delivering choice programme and the “gold standard” best practice framework for end of life care. She added there had also been “significant investment” in staff training.

NHS Mid Essex assistant director of commissioning Suzanne Sinclair said her PCT had invested over £187,000 of new money in “dedicated end of life services”, such as support for voluntary services, rapid response and 24-hour community services, specialist palliative care teams and co-ordination of services.

She said: “If we factor in acute care, cancer drugs etc then we estimate that in 2009-10 there was over £1.7m of new investment across the PCT in palliative care.”

Marie Curie Cancer Care director of research and innovation Steve Dewar also said it was “hard to get under the skin” of the report’s figures because PCTs did not use a common definition for end of life care services.

A second round of funding, worth £286m, was earmarked for 2010-11 by the government in July. Mr Dewar said it was important there was “rigorous scrutiny” on how this investment was being spent.

Earlier this month, HSJ reported findings from the National End of Life Care Intelligence Network which revealed stark variations in access to end of life care between regions and disease groups.

The report was based on local authority data for 2005-07, and so came before any impact was made by the end of life care strategy.

National End of Life Care Programme director Claire Henry has told HSJ the network is to publish more recent data this autumn.