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Wednesday 04 April 2018

Management consultants make trusts less efficient, study finds

By MiP

Professor Andrew Sturdy: consultancy projects can be 'highly disruptive' or be used to 'force through existing decisions'.

External management consultants do not save the NHS money and could make healthcare services less efficient, according to new research by academics at three universities.

A study of 120 English hospital trusts over four years by researchers at the universities of Bristol, Warwick and Seville revealed that trusts spent an average of £1.2m a year on management consultants. Although a minority of trusts experienced some improvements in efficiency, the study found that higher spending on consultants was generally associated with increased inefficiency, as measured by patient outcomes and financial performance.

Andrew Sturdy, Chair in Organisation and Management at Bristol University, and one of the authors of the report, said analysis of the data over time “pointed to the fact that it is spending on management consultants that makes hospital trusts more inefficient, rather than the other way around”.

Further research needed

The study data did not point to a conclusive reason for why management consultants make NHS services less efficient. Possible explanations cited by the researchers include the “highly disruptive” nature of management consultancy projects, “artificial demand” generated by sophisticated selling techniques, and consultants being used to “justify or force through existing decisions” without considering alternative sources of expertise.

Sturdy suggested further research was required to identify how and when management consultants should be used in the NHS. “In the meantime, given the financial pressures facing the NHS, trusts should seriously rethink their use of external management consultants that do not deliver value for money – and, in fact, do quite the opposite.”

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