Hospital pays firm £160k in expenses

HEALTH bosses have handed more than £159,000 in on-the-job-expenses to financial experts called in to help balance the books at the Conquest.

In December it was revealed that East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the hospital on The Ridge, had spent a mammoth £4,105,605 on outside consultants between December 2010 and November last year.

The sum of around £2 million was paid to just one firm, the financial whizzkids Ernst & Young.

The trust, which also runs Eastbourne DGH, has an agreement to pay Ernst & Young staff expenses up to the value of 7.5 per cent of its base fee.

So far that has worked out at around £160,000 and will have gone towards food, accommodation and travel costs.

Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest, said: “In my opinion it should be torn up and rewritten. It’s disgraceful and totally unnecessary.

“The trust needs to get its house in order financially, otherwise they will not get foundation trust status and the whole organisation will be taken over by bureaucrats and run from London.”

A trust spokesman said: “We are a large and complex organisation with a turnover of £360 million and more 7,500 staff.

“This year (2011/12) we have been looking to make quality and productivity improvements of £3 million and for the next financial year we will be required to make further substantial efficiency improvements.

“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 sought external expertise from Ernst & Young to make the trust financially sustainable.

“Following their work, and that of others in the trust, along with additional support from our commissioners we are now on course to break even this financial year.

“This expertise does come at a cost but their assistance will help us achieve our longer term goal of financial and clinical sustainability. Ernst & Young’s expenses are capped at 7.5 per cent of their base fee with the trust which is part of their standard contract and predominantly consists of standard fare rail travel, accommodation and subsistence.

“Any non-essential expenses are borne by Ernst & Young and not passed onto the trust.”