With the total cost of the NHS IT programme still the subject of claim and counterclaim, it is worth noting that less than a third of the extra money poured into the NHS last year was spent on improvements to patient services.

Almost half the £5.5 billion of taxpayers money that was added to the health service budget in 2005/6 went on higher salaries for existing medical and managerial staff and a further 16 per cent on increased charges for existing drugs. Only £1.8bn was spent on extra staff, new drugs, services and capital projects, such as new hospital units and machinery.

Spending on health is expected to hit £92bn a year by 2008 – up from £34bn when Labour came to power nine years ago.

The latest figures are contained in a 300-page document sent by the DoH to the Commons Health Select Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into NHS expenditure. In 2005/06, the total NHS budget was £77.6bn – £5.5bn higher than the previous year.