20th September 2010
Response by the Healthcare Facilities Consortium (HFC) to the announcement regarding £300m being spent by the NHS on consulting fees in 2009
The Healthcare Facilities Consortium was established by the last Conservative administration to support the Estates and Facilities Sector of the NHS. It has worked with successive governments since to bring value to the NHS. Since April 2009, it has been an independent organisation giving high value support services to the NHS through a membership model.
The recent announcement by the Department of Health regarding the levels of consultancy usage is misleading and may be open to misinterpretation. For example much of the work undertaken for Hospital Trusts by HFC would be classed as consulting services and although small in cost, have a high degree of value. Since April 2010, based upon average costs, the HFC has saved the NHS an estimated £52 million of consulting services (based on average values) for an estimated NHS expenditure in the region of £75,000. This by any means of measure is a high value return.
Services provided by the HFC are not unique, but given the recent White Paper on the NHS future, there is a strong emphasis on commissioning and outsourcing as being a key strategy going forward. This then is a desire by the government to see an increase in consultancy services to meet these new challenges. Unless there is a move away from commissioning, then there will be a significant increase in the use of consultancy organisations in various ways.
The issue should be to (a) make sure these have high returns in value, and (b) allow the use of the smaller and more efficient consulting services rather than the current trend of using the larger international forms that have high overheads. Similarly to use more of the NHS own derived services in preference to external and necessarily more expensive routes, such as in the IT sector.
In an ideal world, there would be no need for external organisations, but successive governments have chosen strategies that necessarily increase the spend on these areas, closing internal resources that undertake similar tasks, and this trend is set to continue.