Many thanks to Diane Langford and Julie Wassmer, two Whitstable activists who, through hard work and persistence, were able to expose a regional scandal in NHS spending with distinct national implications.
What they discovered was the use of NHS funds to pay consultancy firm, Carnall Farrar, over £6 million for barely 18 months work.
Add to this the fact that Dame Ruth Carnall, a former NHS executive, and partner in Carnall Farrar, was, at the same time, also the Independent Chair of the Programme Board of the local Sustainability & Transformation Plan (STP) – one of 44 regional bodies put in place by NHS England to implement cuts within the NHS – and you can see that there is a conflict of interest here.
If £6 million has gone to just this one firm in just one region, how much more is disappearing in the NHS as a whole?
It took these two doughty women over a year to dig out the truth, making numerous Freedom of Information requests, a lengthy and time consuming process.
There are several notable things about this story.
Firstly, that NHS Trusts are obliged by law to register all payments of £25K and over, and yet these sums paid to Carnell Farrar were not recorded. The explanation was that the STP was ‘not an organisation’ and therefore had no obligation to publish its payments.
Secondly, that it took two independent campaigners to discover this. When the women first approached the Trust they were told that the figure was £2.2 million. It was only with the help of research organisation Spinwatch that they were able to show it was at least £6.05 million, and possibly more.
Finally, that the story has hardly been touched by the press. The only national paper to take it up was the Morning Star. No other print paper has seen fit to publish it and it has not been reported by the BBC or any other broadcast medium. The only other report of the issue appeared on an independent website.
Why is the government encouraging health managers to fritter away millions on unaccountable management consultancies? With such a lack of transparency, it’s no wonder our NHS is in trouble.
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From The Whitstable Gazette 01/02/18
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