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Tuesday 21st
posted by Steve Sweeney in Britain

Figures reveal staggering amount wasted on consultants while health service struggles on brink

PRIVATEERS have pocketed millions of pounds of NHS cash in a “consultancy gravy train” advising health bosses how to shut down hospitals — to save cash.

Management consultants including KPMG, McKinsey and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) have been paid a whopping £17.6 million bonanza to devise schemes to shut or downgrade hospitals with A&E departments closing and the loss of thousands of NHS staff, the Press Association said yesterday, following freedom of information requests to clinical commissioning groups.

Under NHS England’s government-driven sustainability and transformation plans (STPs), the country’s 44 local areas have had five-year spending plans drawn up in secret.

Unveiled quietly last autumn, they have been slammed by campaigners as a massive cuts programme. NHS England boss Simon Stevens insists the NHS can make £22 billion of savings by the end of this parliament.

But the NHS faces a £900 million deficit this year and a series of alarms over the winter led to the British Red Cross declaring a “humanitarian crisis” in hospitals in England.

Some of the biggest consultancy spending was in south-west London. A staggering £4.1m — including more than £1.8m to PwC for “programme support” — has been handed to management consultants to create an STP that will see one of five local hospitals close.

More than £2m has been spent by northcentral London health bosses seeking advice on how to downgrade or shut A&E and maternity services.

And in Northamptonshire, which faces more than £230m in cuts over the next five years, McKinsey was handed a bumper £500,000 for “support for development of STP care models.”

Local health bosses felt the STPs had created an “industry” in management consultants, a King’s Fund report last year revealed.

STP leaders reported pressure from NHS England bosses to increase spending on private management and consultancy — one was even singled out for not spending as much as other areas in the region.

Chairman of the British Medical Association Mark Porter said it was “outrageous” that cash was being handed over to consultancy firms to draw up STPs which “may never come to fruition.”

He added: “The NHS is at breaking point, with record numbers of trusts and GP practices raising the alarm to say they already can’t cope.”

Mr Porter also warned that frontline staff are struggling to provide safe patient care. Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter warned of a “management consultancy gravy train that is completely out of control.”

She added: “What the public wants is more doctors, nurses and paramedics, not management whizz-kids brandishing flip-charts and PowerPoint presentations.”

Unison head of health Christina McAnea, said: “Desperately needed resources that could be spent on patient care are being wasted on handsomely paid management consultants.”

She blasted the handouts as “a huge waste of taxpayers’ money” while the NHS struggles “with a shrinking pot of money and an ever-decreasing number of staff.”

Alan Taman, speaking for Keep Our NHS Public, slammed the plans’ “tortuous, abstract” managementspeak which “delights in the obscure to achieve the obscene.”

He accused health bosses of “breaking up the NHS behind a veil of verbal fog and putrid nonsense.”

NHS England did not reply to requests for comment by the time the Star went to press.