A trust facing the loss of up to 600 staff has defended its decision to spend £3.4m on management consultants in three years.

Southampton University Hospitals Trust said the money had been used to help identify savings, cut waiting times and provide management training.

A spokesperson for the trust said the amount represented only 0.25 per cent of the total spending of £450m a year, and included several different forms of consultancy. It was spent on legal, finance and property expert fees, as well as advice on how to improve efficiency.

Money spent on “specific time-limited projects”, such as a process review of the emergency department, had helped the trust “organise patient care services more effectively and ensure that 98 per cent of people are seen within four hours of arrival at accident and emergency” the spokesperson said.

The trust announced earlier this year that it needed to cut its wage bill to realise savings of £100m over three to four years. This will mean the loss of 400 posts during 2010-11 and a further 200 posts will go in 2011-12.