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MP questions amount of cash spent on consultants

Tuesday 15th May 2012 (Andrew Griffiths)

HOSPITAL bosses have admitted spending another £820,000 on management consultants — prompting an MP to demand answers about their use of taxpayers’ money.

The spending by directors at Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Burton’s Queen’s Hospital, is explained in a letter from its chief executive, Helen Ashley, to Burton MP Andrew Griffiths.

The Tory backbencher triggered the response after seeking ‘clarification’ following Ms Ashley’s admission last month that the trust had spent, or planned to spend, almost £1 million on consultants.

In the letter, Ms Ashley said this spending was linked to the trust’s recovery plan and transformation programme, designed to help meet the demand by Monitor, the independent regulator of foundation trusts, that bosses should restore their organisation’s financial health or risk its longterm stability.

But the chief executive revealed that bosses had also used consultants to help the trust ‘deliver accelerated productivity and cost improvement’ to help Queen’s save £19 million in two years — part of the drive to lop £20 billion off the NHS’s budget.

Meridian Productivity received £365,000 for production planning and control systems, she said, explaining it had identified £750,000 of ‘savings opportunities’ and reduced waiting times for outpatient specialities.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) was handed £455,000, the chief executive said, revealing it had earmarked ‘savings opportunities’ worth £5 million.

Mr Griffiths said he was ‘surprised’ by the extra spending, adding: “It does appear to raise questions about why five sets of consultants have been required and whether there’s any overlap in relation to the work they’ve been requested to do

“I’ve got no problem with the hospital bringing in outside experts to improve the cost effectiveness and quality of care at the hospital, but I think we do need some answers about what exactly they were doing for such large amounts of money.

“I want reassurance that these consultants are offering good use of taxpayers’ money.” Mr Griffiths has written to Ms Ashley asking for an explanation.

Ms Ashley told the Mail the trust had invested in specialist expertise to help meet its financial challenges.

“The trust has made sure it gets the right skills for the right job and so has made appropriate use of different experts,” she said.

“The projects we required the external consultants to undertake on our behalf were all necessary and separate pieces of work.

“They are interlinked, inasmuch as they support our drive to provide safe, effective and affordable services, but they do not duplicate each other.”

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