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'Ditch' private management consultants from the NHS

Consultant leader condemns 'corporate culture' in some hospitals

OnMedica Staff

Wednesday, 03 June 2009

The health service is entering a "dark and dangerous period" because of the economic crisis, claim lead doctors.

In a speech today to the BMA's annual Consultants Conference, Dr Jonathan Fielden (pictured), chair of the consultants' committee, called for private management consultants to be "ditched" from the NHS, arguing that public money should not be diverted away from patient care into the "pockets of shareholders".

Addressing the conference Dr Fielden celebrated successes in the NHS while condemning "aberrant corporate cultures" in some hospitals, which had led to "painful blots on the NHS landscape" such as substandard care at Stafford Hospital.

"Waiting times are at an all time low, survival rates are increasing, patient experience is improving. Our hospitals are cleaner, safer and better than ever before," he said.

"However, there have been clear failings where patients have not received the high quality care they deserved, where the processes, systems and sometimes individuals have let them down. Painful, dreadful blots on the NHS landscape, where patient care has suffered.

"In each of these there is a common theme: targets being put in front of quality, staff not being listened to, aberrant corporate cultures suppressing concerns and disregarding safety. Doctors must challenge this culture of denial and lead a better way forward."

In a criticism of the £350 million reportedly spent on independent management consultants in the English NHS last year, Dr Fielden said NHS doctors were motivated by different incentives.

"Let more money remain in the NHS - hard-earned taxpayers’ money going where they want it - into patient care, not the pockets of shareholders. It is the ethos, the faith that is at the heart of the Health Service that drives us. One that management consultants, brought up in the tarnished world of finance fail to understand.

"Ditch the external management consultants - when we see them flogging our ideas, there is palpable frustration that we are not utilising the great talents across the NHS."

"For the first time in working memory, we may see real cuts in health spending. This will provoke some stark choices: what is kept, what is cut, what can the NHS afford? Let’s ensure that it’s doctors making those difficult decisions in partnership with our patients and healthcare colleagues, not faceless bureaucrats, accountants, and those out to fleece the taxpayer."

Identifying further areas where savings might be made, he criticised the amount paid to Independent Sector Treatment Centres for work that was not carried out, as much as £927 million in England according to an estimate in a recent study, as "a dangerous waste."

And he called for the current £1.7 billion surplus in the NHS to be reinvested in patient care: "It has been hard-earned and our patients need it. The treasury must not pilfer this coffer. NHS money is for NHS patients."

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