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NHS ‘spends £21m on management consultancy advice’ while cutting nurses

Health and social care services across England have paid £21m to management consultant firms to advise on radical cost-cutting plans, an investigation has revealed.

The Pulse investigation of all 44 ‘Sustainability and Transformation Partnership’ (STP) regions found that some areas have spent millions of pounds on private consultants to help them draw up the plans, which in some cases involve cutting frontline services such as nurses.

The controversial plans were first announced in December 2015, with the aim of making £22bn worth of efficiency savings to the health services by 2020/21. The Pulse investigation reveals that they were often heavily reliant on outside consultants, costing millions of pounds.

The 19 STPs that responded to the FOI request said they had spent £9.17m on consultants since March 2016, when they started working on the plans. Extrapolated across the 44 STP areas in England, this comes to £21.2m.

The plans that were available in January this year for eleven of the 44 STPs showed a planned reduction of 1.6% in the total workforce, including a 2.3% cut in nursing, midwifery and health visiting staff.

One STP, Kent and Medway said it had paid £3.2m to four firms, including £2.97m to Carnall Farrar for 'strategy, analytics, modelling and programme management'.

In response, Kent and Medway STP said: ‘We are extremely cost-conscious and have invested only where it has been absolutely necessary to provide capacity, skills, experience and expertise that have not been available, or able to be freed up, within Kent and Medway health and social care organisations.'

'Struggle to justify spending'

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: 'The Government will struggle to justify this level of spending on management consultants who advise on cutting nursing staff.

'This sort of expertise should already be held within the NHS. It is a false economy when the consultants cost more than the savings they identify.

'Nursing staff, who have suffered a 14% real-terms cut to their pay, will find it galling to hear the sums spent on this advice.'

Dr John Allingham, a GP in Dover, described the £3.2m sum spent in Kent as ‘an eye-watering amount of money’ to spend in a region with high deprivation and ‘significant unmet needs’.

He said: ‘It is difficult to justify how we can find cash for cake when so many people have no bread.’

Consultants: 'Delivering more for less'

One of the consultancy firms, KPMG, said: ‘KPMG’s health team has a strong track record in providing value for the NHS, and this work will help the organisations deliver the Government's policy plans for a more efficient national public health service that meets the needs of our changing population.’

Another firm, PwC, said: ‘We are often engaged by STPs to help them plan their strategies and financial delivery by bringing them in depth advice from experts with a health and social care background.

'Most STPs are having to manage extraordinary levels of financial pressure which requires specialist external support to help them deliver more for less.’

STPs: 'Required spending'

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and North Durham STP said: ‘This was for advice and consultancy work, including strategic financial and activity modelling to support the CCGs and partner organisations to prepare and submit a draft STP.’

Sussex and East Surrey STP said: ‘External facilitation was required to bring all the stakeholders together to create an entirely new partnership before the infrastructure to support that partnership was in place… Sufficient expertise and capacity was not available from within the partnership to meet these requirements.’