The NHS is spending thousands of pounds on treats for patients, including holidays, horse riding, satnavs and even a summer house.

An investigation by Pulse magazine also found health funding being spent on new clothes, an iRobot cleaner, art classes and aromatherapy.

Personal health budgets were introduced by the Government to help the long-term sick and disabled, and give them greater control over the support they received.

The patients work with their GP or an NHS team to decide how the money should be spent on their care.

Pulse used the Freedom of Information Act to find how much was spent on personal health budgets during 2014/15.

Some 33 of 209 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) in England provided full responses.

The NHS Nene and NHS Corby CCGs, which handle health budgets in Northamptonshire, spent £2.55 million on personal health budgets for 161 patients.

This included cash for a family holiday to help a patient “re-establish relations” with their children.

Another person went on holiday with a dog, while cash was also spent on building a summer house so a patient could have “their own space”.

A spokesman said the money was being used to achieve outcomes that “focus on improving an individual’s health and wellbeing”.

He added: “All personal health budgets are clinically agreed and monitored.”

In Kernow in Cornwall, £248 was spent on horse riding and £7 on hiring pedalos, while £1,000 was put towards music lessons in Stoke-on-Trent.

The 33 CCGs also disclosed their predicted spend on personal health budgets in 2015/16. They had an expected spend of £589,000 each.

Extrapolated across all CCGs, this would amount to £120m on fewer than 5,000 patients.

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association’s General Practitioners Committee, said: “We continue to have real reservations about this scheme and the inappropriate use of scarce NHS money on non-evidence-based therapies.

“While individuals may themselves value a massage or summer house, others will understandably start to question why they can’t also have such things paid for by the state – and that will just fuel demand.”

Research by Nick Watson, professor of health and wellbeing at the University of Glasgow, suggests patients who received personal health budgets had £4,000 more spent on them than others receiving usual care – regardless of the complexity of their needs.

An spokesman for NHS England said: “Personal health budgets are designed to meet identified health needs in ways that give patients more control over the care and support they receive.

“The spending must be agreed between the individual and the NHS, meet the patient’s individual health needs and achieve the desired outcomes.

“An independent evaluation has shown that personal health budgets are cost effective, help people manage their health and improve quality of life.”