Posted: Thu 24th Oct 2019

“Market rate” being paid by health board for management consultants – one alleged to be ‘working from home in Marbella’

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Oct 24th, 2019

Delays in responding to questions about management consultants allegedly earning up to £2,000 a day at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board have been raised in the Senedd.

Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, has said that he has written to the health board in response to a anonymous letter featuring allegations made by a health board insider.

Asking the Health Minister to make a statement on the use of external consultants in the Senedd he said: “One of those people is Philip Burns, who has been employed by the board, it would seem, to be part of the process of identifying opportunities to save money.

Now, apparently, he is paid £2,000 per day, along with travel costs back and forth from Marbella.

I’ve asked the health board to confirm whether this is true for over a month, and I’ve not received a response, and therefore I’ve been forced to present a freedom of information request.

Now, this is the man who is, apparently, behind the intention to change nursing rotas, apparently, which is something that’s caused great concern among nurses in north Wales and does undermine much of the goodwill that has existed between nurses and their employers.

It appears that his salary is greater than the savings that that would generate.

But never mind about that, my question is: shouldn’t there be more transparency around the way these external consultants are employed?

And wouldn’t you agree with me that it’s entirely unacceptable that I contacted the board over a month ago to ask for those details but still haven’t had a response?”

Minister Vaughan Gething AM replied, “I think there are a couple of different points.

I’m not at all aware whether the interim recovery director is responsible for the ongoing consultation with trade unions around nursing rosters. I don’t think that’s a fair point to make in this debate.

There is an entirely legitimate question, though, about the transparency on information about the terms on which consultants are engaged and the costs of them.

I should point out, though, that the costs in terms of the annual increase are higher within the Welsh system, pretty expected within the English system.

We need to deliver a significant turnaround and recovery in the finance function of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, and we’re at a point where the previous interventions have not worked to deliver the real traction that is required.

I expect that health board to deliver against that—not just to come up with a list of opportunities that have not been taken, but actually to make progress on opportunities that do exist to improve their finance function.

That does not mean that every single one of those compromises the ability to deliver healthcare of the quality that you and everyone else in this Chamber expects.

Yes, I will, though, talk to the health board about the provision of information, because you should not have to ask over quite such a long period of time for them to provide information that should be available to you and other public representatives.”

Out of the chamber Mr Gruffydd said: “I wrote to the chief executive and chair of BCUHB because these were specific allegations and I wanted to know if there was any truth in them.

It’s disappointing that, to date, I’ve yet to receive a reply or even an acknowledgement after more than four weeks.

As a result I’ve submitted a Freedom of Information request but that is still outstanding.

I’m particularly concerned about rumours circulating within Betsi Cadwaladr health board that the Recovery Director Phillip Burns, who was appointed in July to oversee savings, is earning £2,000 a day and is also working from his home in Marbella.

I have asked whether he is being paid that and whether he is getting expenses to travel from Marbella.

There is a legitimate public interest in knowing whether this claim is accurate.

There is no excuse for ignoring an elected representative who is raising these concerns privately.

I feel I have to make this public to get a straight answer. I’m sure BCUHB staff will be interested in the response and I’m glad that the health minister feels the delay is unacceptable.”

Our sisiter site Wrexham.com asked the health board why an AM has had a delay in replies to their queries, and if resorting to an FOI an acceptable outcome.

They also asked if there was any specific answers available to the points raised.

In response a spokesperson for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said: “Our priority is to deliver considerable improvements in unscheduled care, planned care and financial management and to achieve this, we are temporarily strengthening our existing capacity and expertise in these areas.

Interim staff have been appointed in accordance with our standing financial instructions to undertake specific roles for a short period of time.

Appointing a Recovery Director was a recommendation from the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee, who called for more resources to be devoted to turnaround action, including bringing in additional specialist external turnaround expertise.

“There is a market rate for this level of expertise and that is what we are paying.”

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