The primary care trust fitness for purpose programme cost the Department of Health £6.5m, HSJhas learned.

The primary care trust fitness for purpose programme cost the Department of Health£6.5m, HSJhas learned.

The costs were revealed in a written answer by health minister Ivan Lewis. In addition to£6.5m on the programme, he said the DoH also paid£287,000 to three companies that supported the recruitment of chief executives through controversial assessment centres.

Mr Lewis put the expenditure in the context of PCTs' overall budget, saying: 'PCTs will spend£64.6bn in 2006-07 and the cost of supporting the fitness for purpose programme is£6.5m.'

Some of this was paid to consultants McKinsey, which devised the programme for the DoH and have worked with PCTs in implementing it. The DoH has consistently refused to reveal the details of its contract with McKinsey.

The cost to the DoH of assessing each PCT for wave one was£45,000, for wave two it was£40,000 and for wave three it will be£35,000, he added.

Waves one and two - which covered the PCTs that did not reconfigure - were completed earlier this year, with the results released on the same day as the Healthcare Commission's annual healthcheck results in October. Wave three - PCTs with new boundaries - is currently under way and due to end by March 2007.

Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman who posed the parliamentary question, said the figures did not include management time spent on the review.

He said: 'This is yet more management time and money coming on top of yet another round of reform and PCTs can be forgiven for wondering what this exercise achieved.'

Milton Keynes PCT chief executive Barbara Kennedy said: 'The DoH has spent about 10 times as much on the development of foundation trusts as it has on PCTs. So if you view fitness for purpose as a means for developing PCTs, then I would say that probably too little has been invested up to now.'

A DoH spokesperson said: 'The fitness for purpose programme was established to help PCTs identify their strengths and weaknesses. We expect the cost will be more than outweighed by the savings.'