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Healthcare bosses pay consultancy firm £6m to make budget cuts

Health and social care leaders in Kent and Medway paid over £6m to one management consultant to draw up plans to overhaul the local healthcare system.

A freedom of information request sent by local campaigners to Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust revealed that Carnall Farrar was paid £6,051,199 between 2015/16 and 2017/18 ‘to contribute their expertise, capacity, skills and experience of delivering large-scale change programmes’ to create the budget cutting plans.

However, local GPs have said the sum is a ‘dizzying amount to spend’ in a region with high deprivation and ‘significant unmet needs’, which has seven practices in Folkestone – which cover around 64,000 patients – having to apply to NHS South Kent Coast CCG for formal list closure, saying there is a shortage of 16 full-time equivalent GPs.

A Pulse investigation last year revealed that healthcare bosses paid management consultants £21m to draw up ‘sustainability and transformation plans’ (STPs), including £2.97m paid to Carnall Farrar from Kent and Medway health bosses between 2015/16 and 2016/17.

The STPs were first announced by NHS England in December 2015, with the aim of making £22bn worth of cuts to the health services by 2020/21.

The plans for Kent and Medway aim to save £486m from the healthcare budget by 2020/21 through a number of cost cutting measures including consolidating services for stroke patients from six hospitals into three ‘hyper acute stroke units’. 

The plans also propose downgrading the A&Es at Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother hospital and the William Harvey, Ashford in east Kent.

But Dr John Allingham, medical secretary of Kent LMC, said such plans would be difficult to carry out ‘while we are so desperate for clinicians’.

He said the money paid to Carnall Farrar ‘remains a dizzying amount to spend on management at a time when we are so short of resources at the front line’.

He said: ‘There is a lot of activity within the STP, many meetings and plans, but while we are so desperate for clinicians they will be difficult to deliver.’

Dr Allingham previously described the money spent on consultancy firms as ‘an eye-watering amount of money’ to spend in a region with high deprivation and ‘significant unmet needs’.

Julie Wassmer, one of the campaigners who submitted the FOI said paying management consultants to make budget cuts ‘within an underfunded service is not only senseless, it’s immoral’.

But Glenn Douglas, chief executive and chair of the Kent and Medway sustainability and transformation partnership (STP), said in-house NHS staff ‘do not have the time, nor necessarily the experience and specific skillsets needed’ to draw up the plans ‘within the timescales required, without additional external support’.

He added that the consultants particularly contributed ‘modelling and analytics, strategy development and programme management’.

Carnall Farrar declined to comment on particular contracts but confirmed their involvement in the STP, including identifying savings of £332m by reducing avoidable admissions and improving productivity.

What are the sustainability and transformation plans proposing?

Pulse’s scrutiny of the 44 STPs have previously revealed how