Norfolk hospitals' �1m consultant bill

Norfolk's hospitals spent more than �1m on hiring consultants and translators last year, it has emerged.

Norfolk's hospitals spent more than �1m on hiring consultants and translators last year, it has emerged.

Figures released by the county's three main hospitals reveal �1,017,458 was spent on communication, IT and finance consultants and translation services for non-English speaking patients.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn spent the most in the last financial year with a spend of �551,714 - which included spending �353,626 on five finance consultants.

The James Paget Hospital spent �334,822 between April 2009 and March 2010 and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital �130,922 between January and December 2009.

But hospitals defended the sum spent on consultants after three parliamentary candidates questioned the need for such amounts.

The N&N said it wants patients to use phone-based translation service to cut costs.

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A spokesman said: 'There has been a rise in requests by our staff for face-to-face translation but later this year we'll be raising staff awareness of phone-based translation rather than face-to-face as it's cheaper and effective.

'Translation is vital for clinical staff to identify what is wrong with a patient and to communicate the treatment plan with the patient.

'We also need translation services when we are establishing whether or not someone from overseas will need to pay for their treatment on the NHS.'

A QEH spokeswoman said: 'The trust uses temporary and interim staff as a means of accessing specialist expertise, skills and support at times when they are specifically needed, usually to work on specific projects.'

The James Paget Hospital, which hired five IT consultants at a cost of �221,276, said: 'We have a responsibility to ensure that our frontline and support services run as effectively as possible to benefit our patients.

'Consultants are used for very specialist work when these skills aren't available from within the trust's existing staffing resources or to cover on an interim basis until the substantive vacancies are filled. We only use consultants where there is a clear need to do so.'