Wide differences between rich and poor primary care groups have been revealed in an Audit Commission report.

The commission conducted a 'snapshot' survey of all 481 PCGs in England in the run-up to their launch in April.

It found that PCGs covering populations of up to 75,000 typically had management budgets as low as£100,000. The largest groups of up to 250,000 people had been awarded up to£500,000.

Report author Geoffrey Rendle said that while differences had been expected, the commission was 'surprised' at the scale of the gap. He added that in the smaller groups 'up to half the management costs were going on just setting up the board itself' and there was 'a real shortage of resources for employing staff'.

The report found that most PCGs had taken advantage of delegated budgets, with 83 per cent starting at 'level two' as sub-committees of their health authorities.

An 'average' PCG, if all eligible funds were delegated, would control a budget of£62m.

GP practices in deprived areas were less likely to be represented on PCG boards, the report says.

PCGs: an early view of primary care groups in England. Audit Commission Publications. 0800- 502030.£5