The main defence of their decision to sell Finsbury Health Centre is a claimed “extra” £400,000 a year it would cost in rent “which would be better spent on doctors and nurses”, NHS Islington (PCT) seems none too concerned about those extra doctors and nurses when it comes to other areas.
Take executive salaries, for example. We’ve covered this one before but it bears repeating in more detail. According to the PCT’s 2008/9 Annual Report, last year nine senior executives were awarded an extra £250k between them. The three major winners were Claire Topping, Vice-Chair of the Professional Executive Committee, with a whopping 430% jump from a measly £15k to a far more respectable 80k, Will Huxter, Director of Strategy and Commissioning who had a 150% rise from £40k to £100k and Chief Executive Rachel Tyndall, who saw her pay go from £110k to £145k.
What might else be had for £250k? According to the PCT’s own figures, over 21,000 appointments with a GP, podiatrist or district nurse – or a lift in Finsbury Health Centre.
The budget as given in the annual report doesn’t give much useful detail, but through a couple of recent Freedom of Information Act questions other priorities have emerged. One is management consultants: According to research published in The Pulse last year (with a helpful map) spending by Islington PCT on management consultants jumped by 340% – from 312k in 2007 to 1.38 million 2008. Further government figures released last year showed that nationally, management consultants cost twice as much as they saved.
Private Eye and Tom Foot at Camden New Journal have claimed that a report for uberquango NHS London by management consultants McKinsey is driving the proposed closure of Whittington A&E.:
‘The McKinsey consultancy firm has advised NHS London that 60 per cent of A&E visits and 50 per cent of outpatient appointments can be met in super-size walk in health centres and “polyclinics”. This report’s findings is being used by NHS London as “proof” of a “case for change” – but they are refusing to allow public scrutiny of the so-called clinical evidence.’
It would be interesting to know how much this report cost, as well as what it actually says.
Another area where the NHS doesn’t seem to mind spending over the odds is on agency staff. There was a flurry in the press about this over New Year’s, when it emerged that nationally, spending on agency staff went up by 50% last year, including £400 an hour paid for an agency IT manager at the Whittington. With the cut agencies take at somewhere between 38% and 26%, the IT manager certainly didn’t pocket all of this. The usual daily contract rate for IT managers is £75 an hour.
One question Whittington supporters might also want to ask Rachel Tyndall at the follow-up meeting Monday 25 Sept is whether the closure proposal has anything to do with the cost of the PFI lease on the 2002 redevelopment of the A&E. According to statistics released by the London Region BMA this week, the £31.9 million project is expected to cost the NHS £158.5 million over 30 years, or over 5 times the capital cost. Overall, PFI contracts cost NHS London six times the initial capital needed for new and refurbished buildings.
Compared to this, even with the PCT’s inflated capital costing of £10 million to do up Finsbury Health Centre via the LIFT programme, the projected £1 million a year on a 30 year lease looks like a relative bargin!
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