The NHS trust which runs the DGH has splashed out £1.3million on outside advice in the last six months alone.
Figures obtained by the Herald under the Freedom of Information Act show East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust paid out £1,379,859 to consultants in the last half a year – with £607,817 going to financial whizzkids Ernst and Young for advice on how to save cash.
This comes after a similar Herald investigation revealed consultant spending of £4,105,605 between December 2010 and November 2011.
Just last week the Trust’s chief executive, Darren Grayson, said staff were having to try and save a mammoth £104million by 2015 to try and address the organisation’s perilous financial situation.
And earlier this year Trust management were forced to go cap in hand to the local primary care trust (PCT) for more cash. The PCT controls the purse strings for the hospital service and released an extra £15.7million to the Trust after figures for the last financial year showed savings of around £14.4million.
Now a spokesman for the Trust, which also runs the Conquest in St Leonards, has defended the £1.3m spend.
They told the Herald, “The money paid to Ernst and Young was the final phase of their work.
“The remainder of the consultant money is for ad hoc pieces of very specialist work where we could not afford or need to employ the staff ourselves as is common practice with large complex organisations.
“ As stated in last week’s Herald, we need to make a total of £104million efficiency improvements between 2011/12 to 2014/15.
“This is an extremely challenging situation when demand for services is increasing, with an ever aging population, and the cost of drug therapies, treatment, equipment and utilities also increasing.
“Due to this, we have sought external expertise from some external consultants to help identify quality and productivity improvements in the short and longer term to make the Trust financially sustainable.
“Following their work, and that of others in the Trust, along with additional support from our commissioners we made a small surplus of £87k last year.
“Quality and productivity improvements have been identified to help us develop our services in the future and we have plans in place to achieve the £22million efficiency improvements for this year.”
Local health campaigner Liz Walke though was unconvinced by the explanation.
The Save the DGH spokesman criticised the outlay. She said, “Core services are being threatened locally because we can’t afford them, when this sort of money is being paid out.
“How can this continue? Surely something drastic needs to change?”