An investigation conducted by the British Medical Association has uncovered a vast phalanx of operations managers, communications executives, administrators and financial analysts has been created to drive forward controversial STPs (sustainability and transformation plans), which are effectively siphoning millions out of the NHS system.
The investigation revealed that health leaders have created more than 150 jobs, with annual salaries of at least £8.5 million, despite funding on the front line being scarcer than ever before.
In some areas new roles have been created for external applicants, but some STPs are using expensive agency staff or seconding senior staff from other NHS organisations.
The investigation has also revealed a major disparity in the processes being carried out across the country.
In some areas, such as Lincolnshire, health leaders said they were using the resources already at their disposal to move the STP process forward.
But in others, such as North East London which has employed 37 staff, whole ‘project management teams’ have been created and swathes of analysts, press officers, and programme directors appointed.
BMA council deputy chair and STP policy lead David Wrigley was extremely critical of the findings.
“Doctors and patients who are now all too accustomed to seeing the strain placed on hospitals, GP surgeries, social care and public health by the wilful lack of health service funding from successive governments will be horrified to see the amount of money being spent on another layer of potentially wasteful bureaucracy in the NHS.”
Wrigley also indicated his belief that the government had used STP to hide cuts made to front line services.
“These STP plans hide £26 billion worth of health service cuts, as revealed by the BMA earlier this year, and are already falling apart – with the Treasury coming up with only a tiny percentage of the capital they need to get started.”
And the BMA council deputy chair was also critical of the level of regional disparity.
“These revelatory figures show the worrying lack of consistency across the country – with some footprint areas hiring scores of staff at vast costs, some turning to private consultants and some making the best of the management structure already operating in their local area. The result of these plans will be more inconsistency, a deepened postcode lottery and, ultimately, both doctors and patients will suffer.”
In total the BMA discovered that 158.6 FTE (full-time equivalent) roles in the STP process have been created – costing around £8.9m.
But the figures are actually likely to be much higher with only around half of the 44 STP footprints responding to the request and others unable to give detail of remuneration for staff, including very senior roles expected to be filled at director level.