CASH-STRAPPED hospital bosses battling to clear massive debts have blown more than £4 million on private consultants.
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the Conquest on The Ridge, used the cash to pay outside experts to advice the organisation on how to save money.
Bosses are currently under pressure to find £30 million in savings by the end of the financial year, which finishes on March 31.
A Freedom of Information request found that between December 2010 and November 2011 the trust, which also runs Eastbourne DGH, had spent £4,105,605 on outside advice.
Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands Off The Conquest, said: “It’s totally ridiculous and farcical. What does the trust need outside consultants for?
“Spending £4 million on how to save £4 million is a little bizarre. Something must be tragically wrong with the trust board itself.”
Hastings MP Amber Rudd said she was ‘shocked’ at the figure.
She said: “This trust has overspent for the past five years running and that cannot continue. We need to have a service that constantly looks for better ways of delivering the best service for best value to everyone.
“Although I applaud looking at innovative ways to achieve a better service for patients, I am shocked at the scale of the cost of £4 million for external consultancy.
“The Department of Health has requested a reduction of 50 per cent for consultancy costs. I expect our trust to exceed that next year. Patients always come first. A well-run trust will constantly innovate to deliver that. I hope ours will step up to that challenge.”
A trust spokesman said: “The NHS is facing some of the most significant challenges it has ever faced in its 63-year history, needing to make more than £20 billion savings over the next five years.
“The country is in an extremely economically challenging place as is the NHS and this trust.
“Within the NHS the trust is a large and complex organisation with a turnover of £360 million and more than 7,500 staff working out of more than 130 locations.
“This financial year (2011/12) we are looking to make quality and productivity improvements of £30 million and around £18 million from the next financial year, which starts on April 1.
“This is an extremely challenging situation when demand for services is increasing, with an ever-aging population, and the cost of drug therapies, treatment, equipment and utilities also increasing. Due to this, we have sought external expertise to help redesign the organisation and identify efficiency savings in the short and longer term to make the trust financially sustainable.
“External consultants helped deliver £6 million savings in the last six months of last year and have identified further quality and productivity improvements to help us develop our services.
“These include theatre productivity improvements to maximise theatre usage and increase the number of operations performed, reducing costs of materials used across the trust to obtain the best rates, increasing the use of outpatient clinics and the amount of quality time nurses spend with patients.
“This expertise does come at a cost but their assistance will help us achieve our longer term goal of financial and clinical sustainability.”