Management consultants scoop up on the secretive shake-up of the health service in England

The cash-strapped NHS could be spending up to £15 million on management consultants for advice on the secretive shake-up of the health service in England.

Unite, with 100,000 members in the health service, is calling for health secretary Jeremy Hunt ‘to come clean’ on the true cost of the expenditure on management consultants in relation to the 44 Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) for England.

This further major reconfiguration of the NHS, following hard on the heels of the controversial Health and Social Care Act 2012, could see closures or relocations of local hospitals and A&E departments.

The fall-out from the implementation of the 2012 Act wasted an estimated £3 billion in unnecessary regorganisation costs – money that could have gone to frontline services, such as hard-pressed A&E departments so much in the news in recent weeks.

Unite has calculated the £15 million figure, after the media revealed that NHS chiefs in Coventry and Warwickshire had forked out £343,000 to consultancy firm PwC for advice on saving money in their local STP plan.

Further media reports show that the management consultancy fee for preparing the West Yorkshire and Harrogate STP was £378,000, paid to health and social care consultancy Attain.

It is very disturbing news that the management consultants are again scooping up loads of taxpayers’ cash to proffer advice on local STPs. This could well be the tip of another financial iceberg – expenditure on management whizz- kids – that is set to further sink the NHS’s perilous finances.

If each of the 44 STPs spends similar sums on management consultants, the figure could reach £15 million – and perhaps well beyond.

It is not as if the NHS is flush with cash. Recent hard-hitting comments by the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens on the level of funding the NHS had received from the Tory government paints a dark picture.

The NHS is reeling from a cash starvation. The health service is at crisis point and we have not yet reached the end of the winter weather.

Simon Stevens was right to raise serious concerns about the parlous state of NHS finances and an urgent cash injection into the health service is desperately needed.

The 44 STP ‘footprints’ for the disparate geographical areas each have their own plans, which were prepared by mainly local NHS apparatchiks with no public involvement (some limited public consultation process is supposedly now happening). Implementation is expected later in the year.

During 2017, Unite and other health organisations, patient groups and unions will continue to expose what we believe are the true intentions behind the STP programme – the alternative moniker is Slash, Trash and Privatise.

We need to step up our campaign to roll-back the tide of the profit-hungry private providers that are gaining an increasing foothold in the NHS – where the profit motive trumps patient care. The STPs are a Trojan Horse designed to promote that perfidious agenda – they need to be fought tooth-and-claw.

Open Democracy, 3 February 2017