A new report from the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) refutes criticisms that the NHS overspends on management consultants by claiming that in 2008, such costs accounted for only 0.3% of the NHS budget.
The report, Improving care, reducing cost, also says that many consultancy projects led to NHS savings far in excess of their cost.
The MCA says their report contains the first authoritative analysis of how much the NHS spends on management consultancy and the types of work that management consultants do. It is based on research with MCA member companies, and contains a series of case studies.
The report claims that total spending on management consultants by the NHS in 2008 was £300m. Total NHS spending currently exceeds £100bn.
It also says that the amount spent on consultancy by the NHS per employee is roughly a tenth of that spent by large private-sector organisations, and that most spending on consultancy is associated with significant programmes that lead to improved patient care and greater efficiency.
Alan Leaman, Chief Executive of the MCA, said: "Management consultancy has recently been caught in the crossfire of the arguments between supporters of reform in the NHS and their opponents. This report sets out the down-to-earth and essential work that the vast majority of management consultants are doing – and the benefits that they bring.
"Those who attack the use of management consultants by the NHS are undermining efforts to increase efficiency and improve patient care.
"The public rightly demands high-quality services and value for money. Those who attack the role of management consultants would deny them both."
The House of Commons Select Committee recently recommended that the government establish a central list of all the consultancies used by the NHS and the projects that they have worked on. The MCA supports this proposal.
Improving care, reducing cost also sets out some MCA proposals for further improving the NHS's use of consultancies. These include a call for a clearer distinction between consultancy and the use of interim staff, together with greater focus on the outcomes of consulting projects and more performance-related contracts.
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"The £300m would be better spent on people in the NHS who are qualified to recruit appropriately, so that NHS employees can 'increase efficiency and patient care' rather than be the reasons that these are not delivered" – Colin Paget, London