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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 September 2006, 09:45 GMT 10:45 UK
NHS external manager bill 'soars'
Operating theatre
The Tories warn spending on managers is detracting from clinical services
The NHS in England is set to spend 172m this year on external management consultants - a rise of 83% in two years - the Conservatives have claimed.

Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain figures from 76% of NHS trusts.

The data shows a link between trusts with the biggest debts and most job cuts, the Tories said.

But the Department of Health said the figure should be seen in the context of the annual 70bn NHS budget.

NHS trusts are able to employ external consultants for advice on how to run their services and staff.

The government has also enlisted companies like KPMG and Price Waterhouse Coopers to act as "turnaround teams" for some failing trusts.

'Dubious effect'

In their report, the Tories said trusts' spending on management consultants was increasing, and that the use of consultants was a "reliable yardstick" for job losses and debts.

The report added that a total of 93.8 million was spent in 2004/05 on external consultants, rising to 117.9 million in 2005/06.

The projected spend for 2006/07 is 171.6 million.

The figures were calculated using the data returned from trusts, and projections for the remainder.

Mr Shapps said several trusts refused to respond to his request, adding they had an even worse track record than some in the report.

He added: "I think it's extremely dubious as to how much effect these consultants are having, other than sacking lots of staff."

The government needed to look at whether taxpayers were getting value for money when jobs and services were being cut and wards closed, he continued.

'Waste'

The report said 10 of the worst trusts had millions of pounds of debt, yet had a projected spend each of between 1.9 million and 3.6 million on consultants for 2006/07.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust owes more than 6 million and is cutting 325 jobs, but has a projected consultants spend of 3.6 million, it added.

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust has a debt of more than 16 million and 300 job cuts but a projected spend of 3.5 million.

And United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust owes more than 11 million, and is cutting 320 job cuts but has a projected spend of 2.7 million on consultants for 2006/07, the report said.

Dr Paul Miller, chairman of the British Medical Association's (BMA) consultants' committee, said he would not be surprised if trusts' total spend was even higher.

He added: "The NHS is wasting hundreds of millions of pounds on management consultants who don't have the answers.

"I would like the secretary of state to stop the NHS wasting all this money on management consultants - it takes money away from patient care."

Dr Miller, who has an MBA, continued: "The NHS needs good management and good managers but that involves people who know the trust, the staff, the locality and the services it provides - not just people parachuted in from outside with no health experience."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said it not comment on the figures in the report because there were no details of what kind of services were included in the costs, and said the total spend on management consultants was not collated.

"However, any figure should be looked at in context - the NHS budget is over 70 billion and the NHS is one of the largest employers in the world."

She denied that there was a link between deficits and the use of management consultants and said independent evaluation had found "no common cause" for deficits.




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