Controversial NHS regulator Monitor has come under heavy fire for spending a third of its budget on millions of pounds of advice from four firms of finance and management consultants.
The Yorkshire Post can reveal the organisation, which regulates elite NHS foundation trusts and is taking on key powers under the Government’s much-criticised health service reforms, has forked out £6.35m in fees since April for advice from PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and McKinsey.
The huge scale of payments was last night branded a “gravy train” by a senior MP amid criticism over the increasing role of private sector consultants in the NHS.
Between April and January, Monitor paid PwC £2.7m, McKinsey £1.9m, KPMG £900,000 and Deloitte £800,000 for a range of projects from its £19.5m budget.
Among reports are two by McKinsey into the future of the Rotherham and Barnsley NHS trusts which bosses at both have dismissed as inaccurate.
NHS officials have refused to make them public but the Yorkshire Post understands they raise doubts about the long-term finances of both.
The Barnsley report is believed to have concluded the trust was not failing but was “at risk” and urged it to look at the balance of its services to remain sustainable.
Deep concerns over the findings have prompted the four MPs serving Barnsley to write to the regulator complaining the credibility of the McKinsey report and Monitor had been “undermined by a range of omissions, flaws and inaccuracies” in the report. They go on to criticise its focus on finance with “barely any references to safety, quality or patients”.
Last night former shadow health secretary John Healey, MP for Wentworth and Dearne, said: “Monitor is a consultancy gravy train for these big firms. Monitor is first and foremost about finance and it’s now doing a job for the Government under its reorganisation of the health service to set the NHS up as a market in the long term. These reports are not about health needs or standards of care, they are simply about finances.
“Nobody should be surprised because Monitor has a job to do to see the NHS is increasingly based on commercial competition.”
Pam Johnson, head of health for Unison in Yorkshire, warned the reports raised questions about Monitor’s agenda in South Yorkshire. “Every indication is the reports focus on finances and forcing NHS trusts to save money despite increasing numbers of patients and a growing need for care,” she said.
A spokesman for Monitor said it bought in external expertise around times of peak activity and on specialised subjects to ensure it was “as cost-effective as possible”. It had used it in a number of areas including the development of a new regulatory system under the Government’s NHS reforms.
“When we use external experts we follow a rigorous competitive tendering process to ensure value for money is achieved,” he added.
It had ordered the reviews from McKinsey in South Yorkshire amid indications risks to the financial sustainability of both trusts were growing.
“The reviews were useful in providing Monitor with assurance over the differing level of risk faced by these two trusts and giving the trusts advice on appropriate actions to resolve any issues identified,” he said.
“Monitor continues to work closely with the trusts to ensure that any risks are fully understood and that they are taking appropriate and timely action. As part of this process Monitor will continue to engage with other key local health partners to ensure that a co-ordinated approach is taken to resolving any broader challenges facing local health services.”
McKinsey said it did not wish to comment.