Sir: In Chris Blackhurst's piece ("Ministers fail to justify consultants' fees of pounds 95m", 4 December) health minister Tom Sackville is reported as saying that consultants were used to assist in improving efficiency, but that "it is not possible to assess the savings which are a direct consequence of their activity".
Mr Blackhurst infers that the Government has no idea how much benefit consultants provide. But he ignores the fact that organisations such as the NHS hire consultants to bring benefits other than costs savings. These include helping them think in new, more effective ways, contributing specialist expertise, acting as enablers, and supplying temporary manpower to help put plans into action. Furthermore, good consultants work hard to keep up to date with current management thinking, and although a few Luddite Tory MPs may disapprove, much of this emanates from business schools, some of the American ones.
Consuming is a highly competitive marketplace and consultants have to be effective to survive. Consultants are challenging to work with. They ask uncomfortable questions. They bring skeletons from closets. They have high standards of quality. They work long hours. The good ones are in demand, and therefore expensive.
The Centre for Large
Amsterdam, the Netherlands