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Consultants ripping off NHS

David Duke | 13.09.2006 11:54 | Health | Liverpool

Whilst the queues and treatment at the NHSS gets worse, they are still paying useless consultants a fortune

HOSPITAL trusts in Merseyside and North Cheshire are on course to spend a staggering £2. 4m on management consultants this year, despite the cash crisis gripping parts of the NHS, it was claimed last night.

The bill for the army of outside advisers will soar by 56% from £1.5m just two years ago, according to figures obtained by a Conservative MP.

Yet the rising cost of outside advice comes as many trusts make cuts and lay off staff to cope with financial deficits that totalled £1.27bn across England last year.

By far the biggest spender in the area appeared to be St Helens and Knowsley NHS trust, which was projected to hand private consultants £1. 19m in the current financial year.

The sum was calculated by Grant Shapps, Tory MP for Welwyn Hatfield, from the amount he says the trust spent in just the first three months of 2006/7, £297,000.

He said St Helens and Knowsley has consistently been the highest spender, with a bill of £1.11m in 2004/5 and £2.18m in the last financial year.

But the trust hit back at the allegations, and disputed the MP's figures.

A spokeswoman said: "The figures quoted are incorrect. In 2004/5 the trust spent £346,000 on management consultants, and in 2005/6 the figure was £784,000."

The other eye-catching figure according to Mr Shapps' evidence, is the £578,328 expected to be spent this year by Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals, up from just £10,024 two years ago.

Other local trusts will lay out smaller sums, but with significant rises, particularly at the Countess of Chester (from £8,220 to £144,892) and North Cheshire (from £42,625 to £124,788).

Separately, Mersey Regional Ambulance Service is predicted to spend £220,000 in 2006/07, compared to just £40,000 in 2004/05.

The figures, obtained under Freedom of Information legislation, do not reveal what the money will be spent on in Merseyside and Cheshire,

However, elsewhere in England, management consultants provide advice on everything from corporate "branding" to how best to plan away-days.

Mr Shapps said: "I suspected quite a lot of money was being spent, but I was shocked when I discovered the scale.

"I think most people want their taxes spent on providing more medical consultants, not management consultants."

David Duke