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Spending on management consultancy ‘gravy train’ costs STPs £18m

Spending on management consultants advising England’s 44 sustainability and transformation plans (STP)s has been described as “a gravy train” by Unite, following a revelation that health bosses spent just under £18m with various firms to formulate the plans.

Unite’s harsh words come following an investigation by the Press Association which found that at least £17.6m so far had been spent on fees for advice from firms such as KPMG, McKinsey and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The union, which is the biggest in the country and has 100,000 members who work in the health service, has been vocal about doing what it describes as “exposing the agenda” behind STPs.

But the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) told NHE that at a time of unprecedented change and challenge, “NHS spending on external consultants remains extremely low, but is delivering enormous benefits”.

Unite’s national officer for health, Sarah Carpenter, said that the findings reveal a “management consultancy gravy train that is completely out of control”, at a time when frontline services, such as A&E departments, are being stretched to breaking point.

She said: “Unite has been raising the alarm since last year that the highly secretive STPs in England are a Trojan Horse designed to push through an agenda of cuts and privatisation of NHS services.”

Carpenter went on to claim that even Harry Potter “would need all his wizard powers to cut through the obfuscation and lack of transparency surrounding the STPs” as she claimed the plans were structured in a way to purposefully mislead and distract the public from what was happening to the NHS.

Both health secretary Jeremy Hunt and NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens were also called on to “come clean as to exactly what STPs mean for millions of patients” who are currently facing a crisis of lengthening waiting lists for operations and GP appointments.

“A first step would be to pull the plug on this wasteful expenditure on these very expensive management consultants and to fight for ‘real’ increases in the NHS budget,” Carpenter argued. “Reports that local health managers felt under pressure by NHS England to employ these firms highlight this obsession with management consultants.”  

The Unite officer went on to demand that the public wanted more doctors, nurses and paramedics, rather than management “whizz kids brandishing flip charts and PowerPoint presentations”.

“Unite will be campaigning throughout 2017 to raise awareness as to the real impact for people in their local communities and the adverse impact on much-valued NHS services, such as the possible closure of A&E units,” she said.

Alan Leaman, chief Executive of the MCA, told NHE: “Many of the best initiatives in healthcare, from improved use of technology to the integration of care, are underpinned by the work of skilled management consultants. We are proud that we help save money for taxpayers and improve service for patients.

“At a time of unprecedented change and challenge, NHS spending on external consultants remains extremely low, but is delivering enormous benefits. It also has to be supported by a strong business case. Our own Consulting Excellence initiative ensures that our member firms focus on delivering value for money and great outcomes.”

Commenting on PA's story, an NHS England spokesperson said: "It may occasionally make sense to use outside experts to help advise local hospitals on where to build new facilities and how to release money from old buildings, but the main focus has to be on practical, common-sense changes in areas that really matter to patients, such as making it easier to see a GP and speeding up cancer diagnosis.”

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