Health bosses have spent at least £17.6m on management consultants to draw up plans that could lead to the closure or downgrading of NHS hospitals, new figures show.
Firms including KPMG, McKinsey and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) have made millions of pounds from the strategies, which earmark cuts to departments and some A&Es.
Sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) have been created in 44 regions in a bid to revolutionise services while saving money in the face of an expected £900m NHS deficit this year.
The national figure for spending on consultants, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, comes after The Yorkshire Post revealed last month that more than £1m had been paid to private consultants to help draw up STPs in Yorkshire.
Now, updated figures for the region show at least £478,588 has been spent on private consultants in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, £404,648 in Humber, Coast and Vale - covering parts of North and East Yorkshire, as well as North Lincolnshire - and £241,921 in West Yorkshire and Harrogate.
Health service groups in Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby said they had not spent anything on external help.
Chris O’Neill, programme director for the Humber, Coast and Vale STP, said: “When the STP process was first introduced we did not have the capacity immediately within our existing organisations to take on the additional workload that working in this new way required and so consultants were employed to fill a short-term capacity gap and avoid undue delay in getting the programme off the ground.”
Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association’s council, branded as “outrageous” how so much vital resource was being handed to consultancy firms for strategies which may never come to fruition.
“NHS Improvement has already admitted that it will pick and choose the parts of the plans it can actually put into action, which leads me to question whether all of this money handed out to private companies will simply be completely wasted,” Dr Porter said.
Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “It will be galling for nurses, who have suffered a 14 per cent cut in real terms, to hear these figures.”
While Sarah Carpenter, Unite’s national officer for health, added that the findings revealed “a management consultancy gravy train that is completely out-of-control” at a time when frontline services are at breaking point.