The full scale of expenditure on financial advisers, lawyers and other consultants in the 18 major private finance initiative hospital schemes that have so far gone ahead has been revealed in the Commons - a cool £52.7m.

The figures (Hansard 17 July, col 71w) show large variations in the amount spent on external advisers by those trusts in the vanguard of large scale (over£25m) PFI projects.

Disaggregated, they reveal that£24.3m was spent on legal advice,£16.4m on financial advice and£11.9m on 'other' advice. Spending on these services is highest - proportionate to total capital cost - at Barnet Wellhouse PFI (8.7 per cent of cost), Kings (7.4 per cent), and Hereford (7.2 per cent).

The PFI schemes most successful in keeping external consultancy costs down were Greenwich, South Tees, and St George's Healthcare (each 2.4 per cent of capital cost).

Lawyers' bills were highest in Hereford (£2.5m), Wellhouse (£2.5m) and Kings (£2.6m), and lowest in North Durham (£375,000). Highest spenders on financial advice were Norfolk and Norwich (£1.9m), Bromley (£1.8m), and Hereford (£1.2m). The lowest spender was St George's Healthcare at just£181,000.

The figures were published by health minister John Denham in a written answer to Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Matthew Taylor.

Mr Denham said the new guidance aimed at reducing transaction and contract costs would reduce spending in these areas in future.