NHS slammed over consultant fees

HEALTH bosses in Suffolk are facing fresh criticism after admitting they had spent almost �900,000 of public money bringing in outside experts in just nine months.

HEALTH bosses in Suffolk are facing fresh criticism after admitting they had spent almost �900,000 of public money bringing in outside experts in just nine months.

One month ago NHS Suffolk said it had spent �193,788 on external consultants between April and December - but yesterday it revealed the true figure was actually �866,437.

A spokesman said it decided to give a “fuller response” to a Freedom of Information request to ensure “total transparency” with how it was using taxpayers' cash.

But Ben Gummer, the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Ipswich, who made the initial request is now lodging a complaint with the Information Commissioner over what he sees as the publication of “misleading” figures.

He said: “The PCT (NHS Suffolk) has spent the best part of a million pounds in the last year on consultants and lawyers, just at the time when Ipswich Hospital is under severe budgetary strain, services are being cut and there is real pressure on resources as we enter the worst recession since the 1930s.

“Quite simply the PCT should use this money on the services it is supposed to provide, rather than frittering it away on consultants.''

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NHS Suffolk said the new figure now encompassed mandatory legal advice for new healthcare facilities and an initiative to improve access to GPs for patients as well as putting together a Healthy Ambitions and sexual health project.

Martin Royal, director of business development, said he saw the legacy of the GP review project as “outweighing the cost” and said if it was taken out of the equation the fees were roughly in line with the previous year.

He said: “Expenditure of this nature is nothing out of the ordinary - within the NHS or the public sector.

“NHS Suffolk, like other public bodies, on occasion draws on expert and professional advice, required as part of Department of Health guidance, and where we have clear need for specialist advice. This ensures we make legally sound and effective judgements.”