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NHS spent £350m on consultants in the last year, claims survey


The NHS spent £350m on external management consultants in the last financial year, according to an RCN survey.

According to the Freedom of Information Act survey, obtained from 240 NHS organisations in England, nearly £273m of this was not related to direct patient care.

This equates to the cost of 330 fully staffed medical wards each with 28 beds, or 9,160 experienced staff nurses.

These figures show the NHS is the fourth largest user of external consultancy and reducing the money spent on external management consultancy could deliver 11% of the expected reduction in government health spending announced in the 2009 budget.

RCN general secretary Peter Carter said: ‘These figures are utterly shocking when you consider the difference this money could have made to patients.

‘A very significant sum of money is clearly being spent on setting up competition in the NHS and pursuing foundation status, rather than being invested in patient care. You only have to look at what happened at the Mid Staffordshire foundation trust to see the consequences of this.’

More than 40% of organisations failed to respond within the deadline required by law and the RCN is currently pursuing these organisations for full disclosure of their spending.

It is also calling for explanations about why the information was not available.

Mr Carter added: ‘The RCN believes that the full expenditure may be considerably higher, and we will be pursuing all NHS organisations to reveal the full extent of this expenditure. No NHS organisation should be allowed to exclude itself from proper scrutiny.’


Readers' comments (4)

  • Jon Harvey

    Two thoughts - I once heard about a large general hospital that was spending mountains of money on external expert consultants. They employed a librarian for six months to document the expertise of all the people working in the Trust. The next time a requirement for expert advice emerged - they consulted the database produced by the librarian. They saved themselves a great deal of money by harnessing the in-house expertise.

    Secondly - I do wonder what all the money is being spent upon. I suspect if you analysed it - you would find that about 80% of the money is being spent on about 20% of the consultants involved - who have been hired to do large scale re-engineering projects / restructures / large IT projects and so forth. The NHS would find itself spending a lot less on consultancy - if it simply stopped reorganising!! How many reconfigurations have there been in the last 15 years??

    Thirdly (did I say two points?!) - what we need is a revolution in how innovative improvement ideas from front line staff are developed and harnessed. I have started a blog to support, stimulate and celebrate the small creative ideas that are making a difference.

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  • Jon Harvey

    Here is the link:

    Please visit, browse and contribute - thanks!

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  • Jon Harvey

    "Alan Johnson approves south east London NHS reconfiguration"

    And will he have said - no you cannot spend any money on management consultants to help you to do this...?

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  • Rather worrying when you look at the headline figure but as with everything it needs analysis. Any external work should have tangible benefits to the organisation and ultimately the customer.

    I also believe that organisations often fail to fully utilise the talents they have in-house. I have worked for governmental organisations and as an external consultant. For me the focus and ultimate benefit of an external view has to be on leaving the organisation with the skills and knowledge to do things for themselves. The old proverb of teaching the man how to fish rather than feeding him.

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