Local authorities told to cut down on consultants

Councils should “wean themselves off” using consultants in adult social care if they are to improve value for money, the Department of Health’s efficiency chief has said.

Richard Allman (pictured), director of the DH’s Care Services Efficiency Delivery team (CSED), told Community Care that the way consultants were used was expensive and failed to deliver sustainable improvements.

He said: “There aren’t figures on how much councils spend on consultants, but it is not small. And consultants take a council by council approach so local government per se doesn’t benefit.”

Allman contrasted this with CSED’s own approach, which has involved spreading best practice among councils to improve efficiency in areas such as care management, the design of home care and forecasting future demand for services.

He said consultants tended to diagnose problems but did not get involved in implementing change, which was where councils needed most help.

And with this year’s comprehensive spending review placing tougher efficiency targets on councils, Allman said they needed to focus on building their own capacity to improve, to reduce spending on consultants.

Rob Griffiths, a former council community services director and, until recently, head of social care consultancy at RSM Robson Rhodes, admitted consultants’ value for money was “variable”. However, he added that consultants could provide skills that councils lacked.

Tony Hunter, co-chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services resources committee and a former consultant himself, said: “It can be difficult for internal change agents at times because they can find themselves treading on toes.”

Related articles:
Interview with Richard Allman

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 Mithran Samuel

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