HOSPITAL chiefs have defended their decision to spend more than half a million pounds on private experts despite being forced to make £13m a year savings.
Figures released through a Freedom of Information request revealed that Wrightington Wigan Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) forked out £515,324 in consultancy fees between April 2010 and March 2012.
These include £106,469 to the multinational firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and £34,870 to the tax advisory firm KPMG over the two years.
However, while WWL released how much was paid to each firm, it has refused to reveal what the firms were paid to do, drawing criticism from pressure groups.
Robert Oxley, Campaign Manager for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “The trust must come clean on why it is forking out so much on costly consultants.
“The NHS has to spend taxpayers’ money more wisely rather than acting as if there is an endless pot of cash available to it.
“Taxpayers will be left wondering what the legion of NHS middle managers are doing if they are also picking up such a large bill for consultants.”
However, bosses at WWL, who run Wigan Infirmary, Wrightington Hospital and Leigh Infirmary, say they got value for money.
A spokeman for WWL said: “The use of external consultants for non clinical activity is approved in situations where the expertise cannot be provided internally, in situations where the output is either mandatory or for the benefit of the Trust and hence its patients and or due to the temporary nature of the assignment, where permanent recruitment would not be value for money.
“The Trust is committed to achieving the financial targets set each year which are ratified by the Trust’s Board and submitted to the Foundation Trust regulator Monitor.
“The aim of the financial targets is to deliver long-term financial stability to the Trust, ultimately for the benefit of the patient.”
Other payments made to consultancy firms included £16,735 to Ernst and Young, £24,033 to Dolan and Holt Consultancy Ltd and £18,360 to the Royal College of Physicians.