• National commissioning body used PA Consulting for ‘function mapping exercise’ in 2018
  • Partner charged daily rate of £1,900, and NHSE’s total bill came to £204,164
  • Described as a ‘shocking example of how the NHS is wasting taxpayers’ money’

NHS England paid external consultants more than £200,000 to ‘map’ its responsibilities ahead of the merger with NHS Improvement, HSJ has learned.

The national commissioning body used PA Consulting to carry out a ‘function mapping exercise’ in the first three months of 2018. 

An NHSE insider passed HSJ a copy of the PA Consulting invoice which detailed the daily rates charged by the team of seven. One of the PA Consulting staff, partner Tony Wood, was charged out at a daily rate of £1,900, or £5,700 for three days’ work. The most expensive consultant was James Raymond, who, since the contract, has joined NHSE as a senior policy lead. His 35 days’ work for NHS England was billed at a daily rate of £1,510, earning PA Consulting a total of £52,850.

In total, NHSE was billed £204,164.

NHSE was established in 2013 under the Health and Social Care Act. The organisation’s roles, functions, powers and responsibilities were set out in the legislation, though these have since changed in some aspects.

In March last year, NHSE and I announced plans for the two bodies to work more closely together. In March 2019, it was revealed Simon Stevens would now act as the “leader” of both organisations following the departure of NHSI chief executive Ian Dalton.

The source who leaked details of the contract told HSJ it was a “shocking example of how the NHS is wasting taxpayers’ money on grossly overpaid management consultants”.

They added the function mapping exercise was designed to identify what functions NHSE were legally responsible for before the merger with NHSI, saying: “NHS England should have been able to undertake this work internally using existing staff.”

Under NHSE’s standing financial instructions, non-clinical and non-pay revenue expenditure with non-NHS bodies can be approved by its commercial team up to a value of £3m. Contracts worth more than £10m require the NHSE board to approve the business case.

NHSE argued the contract was a vital part of its preparations for the merger with NHSI that would save the taxpayer millions of pounds.

A spokesman said: “The closer working of two large complex organisations will not only reduce the reporting burden on front-line NHS staff but it will also lead to efficiency savings of nearly 20 per cent, freeing up almost £100m to be reinvested into patient care.

“Given the legal complexities of joining NHSE and NHSI detailed independent work was needed to help identify which functions needed to remain separate for legal reasons and which could be carried out by single teams on behalf of both organisations.”

He also claimed NHSE and commissioning support units had spent only £9m on consultancy services in 2018-19 compared with £27m in 2017-18.

A PA Consulting spokesman refused to comment other than to say it was “very proud of the work we do for the NHS and wider health and care sector”.