An NHS trust paid private consultants more than £500,000 to draw up cost-cutting plans to re-organise hospital services.
Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (CHFT) hired accountancy firm Ernst and Young to help draw up a five-year plan to make services affordable as it faces multi-million pound debts.
The “five-year strategic” plan includes a reduction in the workforce at hospitals in Halifax and Huddersfield of more than 950 jobs by 2021-22.
The organisation was required to bring in private consultants by the health regulator Monitor after running into financial problems last year.
In October it emerged CHFT has set aside up to £1m to pay Ernst and Young to carry out the work. At the time, bosses at the trust said the final figure would be “significantly less” than that.
The trust’s latest financial records show two payments of £255,836, totalling £511,600, were made to the company at the end of December.
The five-year plan is part of a review of NHS services which could result in A&E care being centralised in Halifax.
Calderdale Royal Hospital would become CHFT’s emergency care centre as Huddersfield’s A&E is effectively downgraded to an “urgent care centre” treating less serious ailments.
Under proposals expected to go out to public consultation in February, Huddersfield’s main hospital site could be demolished.
The plans are being drawn up as NHS services in Calderdale and Huddersfield face a £280m funding gap by 2021-22. The hospital trust itself is currently around £20m in deficit.
NHS bosses have insisted the changes are to make care safer and are not financially-driven.
The proposed hospital shake-up was discussed today at a meeting of Calderdale and Kirklees joint health scrutiny committee.
At the meeting, CHFT finance director Keith Griffiths said the trust was currently paying £22m a year for Calderdale Royal Hospital, which is being leased back from the private sector under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme.
Trust bosses have previously admitted they cannot negotiate an exit route from the costly scheme, which contains a £200m break clause penalty.
CHFT chief executive Owen Williams told today’s meeting the PFI contract was “virtually impenetrable”.
The scrutiny committee could potentially refer the hospital shake-up to health secretary Jeremy Hunt if it is not convinced the proposals are safe.