12 May 2009 | Jake Kanter
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has lambasted the NHS over its "utterly shocking" consultancy bill.
The RCN made Freedom of Information Act (FOI) requests to 550 NHS bodies, 240 responded within the deadline. Those that replied revealed they spent a combined total of £350 million on management consultants during the 2008 financial year.
More than £273 million of that was spent on consultancy services unrelated to direct patient care, such as market testing and private finance initiatives.
"These figures are utterly shocking when you consider the difference this money could have made to patients," said Peter Carter, RCN chief executive [pictured].
"Savings in this area could contribute a huge proportion of the savings to be made by the Department of Health (DH) following the 2009 budget, without jeopardising patient care."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in the Budget last month that the DH is to contribute £2.3 billion in additional savings, as part of £5 billion efficiencies in spending across the public sector in 2010-11.
Responding to the amount of consultancy spend, a spokesman for the DH told supplymanagement.com: "Individual NHS organisations decide how to invest their resources to ensure local people get the best possible care and services. We expect organisations to consider value for money and patients' interests in all aspects of their expenditure."
Of FOI requests made to 550 NHS bodies, more than 40 per cent failed to respond within the legal deadline. The RCN is currently pursuing full disclosure of consultancy spend from those organisations that did not reply.
The RCN is holding its annual conference in Harrogate this week.
NHS Pasa - an executive agency of the DH - is to be disbanded as the health service attempts to make procurement simpler and more cost-effective [see the May 14 issue of SM for details].