Bureaucracy row as NHS spending soars

Author: By Michael Savage, Political Correspondent

Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) shelled out £1.2bn on administrative and clerical
staff in 2008, up from the £530m they spent in 2004. It has led to
accusations that the Government has broken a pledge to tackle the costs of
bureaucracy within the health service.

Spending on management consultants by PCTs has tripled to £139m since 2004,
according to figures released in response to a Parliamentary Question. PCTs
were also found to be spending £115m a year on hiring agency administrative
and clerical staff, more than twice the amount spent in 2004. However, the
outlay on administrative staff working within hospitals had fallen by nine
per cent since 2004.

The spiralling costs will come as a blow to ministers, who had hoped that
reducing the number of PCTs across Britain from 303 to 152 would allow as
much as £250m to be redirected to patient care. The Government is now
instituting huge efficiency savings across the public sector in an attempt
to protect frontline services from cuts.

Labour has increased spending on the NHS from £35bn to £104bn since 1997.
However, the Tories claim that a significant amount of the new funding had
been eaten up in waste and bureaucracy. Andrew Lansley, the shadow Health
Secretary, said Labour had broken a pledge to spend NHS resources on
patients, rather than administration. “Every penny spent on unnecessary
management and paperwork is a penny less to provide better care for patients,”
he said. “These figures show just how far Labour have broken the
promise they made in 1997 to spend NHS funds on patients not bureaucracy.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Health said that spending on
administrative and clerical staff, as well as external consultants, had
risen as PCTs were attempting to “drive forward system change”.

“Using consultants can provide PCTs with access to high quality
commissioning support ? to improve the quality of services for
patients, whilst also increasing productivity and efficiency,” she
said. “In terms of numbers, the vast majority of staff in the NHS are
clinical professionals or staff working to support them. The cost of
managers in the NHS, as a percentage of overall spend, has been falling.”
She added that PCTs should always ensure value for money when seeking
services from consultants.

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