Consultancy firms have been paid tens of millions of pounds from public funds to help draw up plans designed to strip £22bn of costs out of the NHS budget, our Johnston Press investigation can reveal.
Data obtained using Freedom of Information rules shows that at least £18m has been spent on hiring companies including blue chip companies such as PwC, Deloitte and KPMG to advise on restructuring the health service in England.
Millions are spent on these so-called experts who are parachuted in to come up with glossy documents and plans and they then move on to their next project
NHS organisations across England were divided up into 44 geographical areas to draw up Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) by the end of last year detailing how they will plug the gap expected in their budgets by March 2021.
FOI requests have revealed that many of the STPs were only produced to the deadline set by health services after executives brought in outside consultancies to make up for shortfalls in expertise and staffing.
Information provided by each of the STPs shows that three out of four of the 44 areas used private consultants.
The total bill across 37 STPs which provided data for their spending on outside consultancies was in excess of £18m.
In response to the FOI request for Lancashire and South Cumbria STP said it was only able to supply information in respect of Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria projects and activities.
They confirmed the Lancashire and South Cumbria Sustainability and Transformation Plan was mostly produced and drawn together by the internal team apart from two independent consultants who provided short term extra staffing capacity at a cost of £25,000.
David Wrigley, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association and a GP in Lancaster said: “This is an issue that has gone on in the NHS for years.
“Millions are spent on these so-called experts who are parachuted in to come up with glossy documents and plans and they then move on to their next project.
“This money will just be the tip of the iceberg - and it is millions of pounds lost from the NHS which could have been spent on doctors and nurses.”
NHS England say it is up to STP areas to decide where they may need support or advice from external organisations such as consultancies.
They remarked that obviously, all STPs need to be disciplined about keeping costs as low as possible as they work to alleviate pressures on the NHS.