NHS paid'¨out £26m'¨for advice'¨on reform'¨says BMA

PRIVATE consultancy firms have been paid at least £26 million by the NHS as part of plans to reorganise the health service, according to research carried out by the British Medical Association (BMA).

The doctors’ union said at the same time, more than 550 new non-clinical jobs have been created across the country to drive through the reforms.

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said it was “utterly unacceptable to see so much money flowing away from patient care to private consultancy firms”, when health leaders have been calling for greater investment to address the current medical workforce crisis.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The BMA’s findings come from a series of Freedom of Information requests sent to Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) and Integrated Care Systems (ICS), which were created as a means of delivering more localised integrated care across the health system.

It found 30 of the 44 geographical areas covered by these bodies responded with new data, while information from a further nine was already available.

The information requests asked for information on how much they had spent on private consultancy firms and whether new jobs had been created as part of that, and found that 11 of the 44 original STP areas admitted to spending more than £500,000 on private firms.

They found some of the world’s biggest consultancy companies have been tasked with projects looking at such things as “reviewing demand and capacity” and “supporting sustainability”.

The more than 550 jobs created have led to an annual salary bill of around £32m, with an expensive new cadre of senior staff being formed and 316 of the jobs attracting salaries of up to £142,500 a year.

But the BMA said the true costs may be even bigger, owing to some STP or ICS footprints either failing to update previously supplied figures or not providing any information at all.

Some of the biggest paying STPs were found to be Kent and Medway, which spent almost £8.2m on consultancy costs and created 36 job roles at a cost of £2.4m.

South-East London spent almost £4.2m on consultancy costs and creating 26 job roles at a cost of almost £1.7m.

Meanwhile, Greater Manchester – a uniquely devolved area – has 104 staff delivering transformation programmes at a cost of more than £6.4m of NHS funding.

Dr Nagpaul said: “Given the perilous state of NHS finances and patients suffering delays for essential services it is utterly unacceptable to see so much money flowing away from patient care to private consultancy firms.

“For many frontline staff – so used to seeing a lack of investment in workforce, equipment and buildings in their workplaces – this level of spending on private consultancy firms will be extremely difficult to comprehend.”

Dr Louise Irvine, a GP based in Lewisham, south east London, said: “I’m shocked to hear they are spending so much money.”