Cash-strapped Trust defends spending on outside consultants

12/4/11- Eastbourne District General Hospital
12/4/11- Eastbourne District General Hospital
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THE cash-strapped NHS Trust which runs Eastbourne DGH has spent more than £4million on outside consultants in the last year.

The Herald revealed earlier this year how East Sussex Healthcare was under pressure to find £30m in savings by the end of the financial year and address outgoings of around £1m a day.

Now, a Freedom of Information request has found that between the months of December 2010 and November 2011 the trust, which also runs the Conquest Hospital in Hastings, had spent a mammoth £4,105,605 on outside advice.

The Herald understands the millions have been spent on financial consultants advising the trust on how to save cash.

Health campaigner Liz Walke said, “This is disgraceful when we have managers who are paid huge amounts of money. What is the finance director doing?”

Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd said, “I’m shocked to discover just how much the trust has paid for financial and system advice over the last 12 months.

“It does seem our local hospital is continuously paying for outside input from specialist consultancy firms like Ernst and Young, while year on year failing to get its finances in order.

“Those firms charge around £2,000 a day, which is an extraordinary amount.

“I find it hard to believe, out of 7,000 staff employed by the trust, they can’t find the expertise to deal with this internally.”

The news comes days after the trust’s chief executive Darren Grayson reassured staff the battle to earmark savings was being won.

A spokesperson for the trust defended the financial outlay and said it has been more than cost-effective.

“The NHS is facing some of the most significant challenges it has ever faced in its 63-year history, needing to make over £20billion savings over the next five years,” said the spokesperson.

“The country is in an extremely economically challenging place as is the NHS and this trust.

“Within the NHS the Trust is a large and complex organisation with a turnover of £360m and more than 7,500 staff working out of over 130 locations.

“This year (2011/12) we are looking to make quality and productivity improvements of £30m and around £18m from April next year.

“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 to help redesign the organisation and identify efficiency savings in the short and longer term to make the trust financially sustainable.

“External consultants helped deliver £6m savings in the last six months of last year and have identified further quality and productivity improvements to help us develop our services-.

“These include: theatre productivity improvements to maximise theatre usage and increase the number of operations performed; reducing costs of materials used across the trust to obtain the best rates; increasing the utilisation of outpatient clinics; and increasing the amount of quality time nurses spend with patients.

“This expertise does come at a cost but their assistance will help us achieve our longer term goal of financial and clinical sustainability.”

Mr Lloyd said he thought the money spent on outside advice would be better spent on hospital services and facilities.

He added, “Can you imagine the difference £4m would bring to our maternity and community based services.”