Bureaucracy row as NHS spending soars

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Indy Politics

NHS spending on backroom staff and management consultants has increased by more than 80 per cent in just four years, new figures have revealed.

Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) shelled out £1.2bn on administrative and clerical staff in 2008, up from the £530m they spent in 2004. It has led to accusations that the Government has broken a pledge to tackle the costs of bureaucracy within the health service.

Spending on management consultants by PCTs has tripled to £139m since 2004, according to figures released in response to a Parliamentary Question. PCTs were also found to be spending £115m a year on hiring agency administrative and clerical staff, more than twice the amount spent in 2004. However, the outlay on administrative staff working within hospitals had fallen by nine per cent since 2004.

The spiralling costs will come as a blow to ministers, who had hoped that reducing the number of PCTs across Britain from 303 to 152 would allow as much as £250m to be redirected to patient care. The Government is now instituting huge efficiency savings across the public sector in an attempt to protect frontline services from cuts.

Labour has increased spending on the NHS from £35bn to £104bn since 1997. However, the Tories claim that a significant amount of the new funding had been eaten up in waste and bureaucracy. Andrew Lansley, the shadow Health Secretary, said Labour had broken a pledge to spend NHS resources on patients, rather than administration. "Every penny spent on unnecessary management and paperwork is a penny less to provide better care for patients," he said. "These figures show just how far Labour have broken the promise they made in 1997 to spend NHS funds on patients not bureaucracy."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Health said that spending on administrative and clerical staff, as well as external consultants, had risen as PCTs were attempting to "drive forward system change".

"Using consultants can provide PCTs with access to high quality commissioning support … to improve the quality of services for patients, whilst also increasing productivity and efficiency," she said. "In terms of numbers, the vast majority of staff in the NHS are clinical professionals or staff working to support them. The cost of managers in the NHS, as a percentage of overall spend, has been falling." She added that PCTs should always ensure value for money when seeking services from consultants.