An HSJ analysis has uncovered large regional variations in the amount being invested in NHS talent and leadership.

HSJ looked at the 2009-10 and 2010-11 budgets for the talent and leadership plans which were drawn up by each strategic health authority at the request of NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson.

Sir David has instructed SHAs to “radically accelerate” talent development so that the NHS can be “spoilt for choice” when it comes to filling top management posts.

Among the seven out of 10 SHAs that provided information, planned investment ranged from £270,000 in the north east to £7.1m in London.

Using NHS Information Centre census figures from September 2009, this equates to £135 per manager and senior manager in the north east and more than £1,000 each in London.

However, the biggest investment as a proportion of total SHA expenditure was NHS South West’s £2m - equivalent to 0.46 per cent of its annual spending, compared with an SHA average of 0.2 per cent.

By contrast, NHS North East spent £270,000 - just 0.08 per cent of its total expenditure.

NHS North East director of transformation Martin Wilson said an additional £605,000 from the Department of Health and trusts was being pooled to create a regional leadership academy.

The figures show that NHS London’s spending has increased the most, moving from £3.2m in 2009-10 to £7.1m in 2010-11.

An NHS London spokeswoman said the SHA had the highest levels of staff turnover.

She said: “It is only right we put this level of investment into our existing staff to ensure our patients have the best service to meet their needs.”

Two SHAs have reduced their investment in talent and leadership this year. NHS West Midlands reduced its spending from £1.8m in 2009-10 to £1m in 2010-11 and in Yorkshire and the Humber the investment has decreased from £720,000 to £684,000.

In a letter to NHS East Midlands chief executive Dame Barbara Hakin in April, made available to HSJ this week, Sir David said that in 2010-11 all regions needed to be “radically accelerating talent development”.

NHS East of England, NHS London and NHS Yorkshire and the Humber were all able to provide figures showing they had promoted those taking part in development programmes to senior roles in their regions. It is not yet clear how regional talent plans will be coordinated when SHAs are scrapped in 2012.