Fury at NHS consultancy spending

HEALTH bosses were last night accused of “frivolous” spending after it emerged they had paid out nearly £200,000 on outside consultants in the first nine months of this financial year.

Jonathan Barnes

HEALTH bosses were last night accused of “frivolous” spending after it emerged they had paid out nearly £200,000 on outside consultants in the first nine months of this financial year.

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show that NHS Suffolk - formerly Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) - has spent £193,788 on consultants since April.

It marks a significant rise on the £117,560 spent on consultancy in the entire 2007-8 financial year.

The money paid out this year includes nearly £58,000 for the planning consultations on changes to health care services in Eye and Sudbury and nearly £23,000 on launching the PCT's Healthy Ambitions campaign - a programme to boost the health of the county's population - and a project to improve sexual health.

More than £40,000 was also paid out to an outside firm for marketing and consultation projects for the PCT's property and estates and more than £28,500 on an “academy project” to a business consultancy firm.

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The PCT plans and buys health care for the county's population and has a yearly budget of more than £640million.

Ben Gummer, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Ipswich, who released the figures yesterday, said: “Suffolk PCT's frivolous spending continues to amaze me.

“Hard working nurses, doctors and support staff across our county are operating under tight budgets, Ipswich Hospital is losing vital cancer surgery teams, and it is getting harder and harder to see an NHS dentist, yet this PCT is able to find over £300,000 to spend on consultants.

“These figures are simply staggering: spending on consultants this year alone is the equivalent of 10 heart transplant operations.

“This is not small change - it is the sort of money that would make a real difference.”

He argued that Ipswich Hospital's head and neck cancer surgery team - a department axed by health bosses earlier this year with surgery moved to Norwich - could have conducted more than 2,700 initial consultations or 56 complex maxillo-facial procedures for this amount of money.

“The board of Suffolk PCT must be held to account for this spending. We are all tightening our belts as this recession starts to bite and it is high time the PCT did the same,” said Mr Gummer.

“When costs need to be cut this the PCT should take a long hard look at themselves instead of taking the knife to frontline services.

“This is an incredibly busy time for our NHS: healthcare professionals are working through the Christmas holidays, both in Ipswich Hospital and in the community, while the Government bureaucrats responsible for all this waste rest comfortably at home.

“I stand shoulder to shoulder with our hard working NHS staff on this important issue - during this challenging economic period we need a PCT board that will do the same.”

No-one at NHS Suffolk could be contacted for comment last night.

Consultancy costs, April 1, 2008 to date

Supplier and cost

Boshiers (property/estates consultancy and marketing) £40,585

Ruth Buxbaum (HR policy development) £750

CACI (InSite system) £10,000

Forensic Training International (Sexual Health Consultation) £2,505.10

Foster Consultants (Healthy Ambitions and sexual health) £22,806.99

EC Harris (planning consultancy re:Sudbury/Eye projects) £57,962.99

Jointly Applied Funding Alternatives (Suffolk employment care) £4,893

Dr Matthew Lockyer (medical report on complaint care) £600

Newchurch Limited (academy project) £28,515.60,

Pharminpho (review of pharmacy services) £3,596.80

Public Management Associates (community services audit) £21,572.71

Total: £193,788.19

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