Cash strapped hospital spends £1.7 million on consultants

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MILTON Keynes Hospital has blown almost £2 million of cash on private consultancy companies – for advice on saving money.

A whopping £1.7 million has been paid out over the past nine months under the heading of ‘Transformation Programme’, the name given to the hospital’s massive budget cutting exercise.

It has gone to seven different companies, most of them London-based.

Ironically the money does not include the biggest consultancy cost of all – the £1,000 a day salary of the Trust’s own acting chief executive Mark Millar.

As the Citizen revealed exclusively last August, 57-year-old Mr Millar was recruited in 2010 on a consultancy basis through his own company, Mark Millar Associates.

Though the hospital say he was appointed on an “interim basis”, he is still in post today, earning a minimum of £25,000 a month plus several hundred pounds in expenses.

The figures for his salary are an absolute minimum estimate and could be considerably higher.

The information comes from the Government website www.data.gov.uk.

This requires NHS Trusts everywhere to enter a monthly log of any spend totalling more than £25,000.

But the site does not state how much more than £25,000 the spend is. It could be double that amount.

This week the chairman of the MKC Health Select committee, Councillor Nigel Long, has blasted the hospital’s spend, spend, spend policy on consultancy fees.

“These are huge sums of money going to private companies. It would be much better spent on re-opening the two wards that are currently closed and improving waiting list times for patients.

“All this money should be spent on health care, not posh private consultants.”

Mr Long has now demanded “total openness” about all hospital non health care expenses.

“I have real concerns about all the hundreds of thousands of pounds clearly being spent in implementing Government policies which are not going to work,” he said.

This week the Citizen asked the hospital why private consultants were needed for the Transformation Programme and why it could not save cash by putting Mr Millar on the payroll.

Trust chairman David Wakefield said: “During 2011/12 Milton Keynes Hospital has spent £1.7 million on external consultants to jump start the Trust’s Transformation Programme, which has not only delivered £10.2 million of savings in the current year but has also improved the Trust’s performance issues as identified by regulators back in 2010.

“A year into the programme we have seen significant improvements in the quality of care for our patients, including reducing the amount of time that patients spend in hospital by an average of one day.

“The Trust secured funding in addition to the money it receives for clinical services to cover these costs. It is centrally-provided money that would not have been available to the hospital for other purposes.

“The use of consultants is usual, to assist management charged with the day-to-day running of the hospital to make rapid change.”

Mr Wakefield said consultancy costs would now decline as in-house management were “ready” to take over the work.

He also revealed Mr Millar was due to be replaced this year.

“The Trust has twice sought to appoint a substantive successor but on both occasions has failed to find candidates of sufficient calibre.

“Under Mr Millar’s leadership, the hospital is successfully addressing its financial difficulties and is delivering large-scale improvements in providing high quality, safe services for our patients.”