HSE spent €1m on children's hospital PR

HSE spent €1m on children's hospital PR

The HSE has been accused of an "unacceptable" misuse of public money after it emerged it has spent more than €1m on children's hospital PR in the past five years - including €248,000 in the first half of 2019 alone.

It also emerged the HSE spent a further €11m on children's hospital consultancy services last year.

In a written response to Public Accounts Committee questions published on Thursday morning, the national paediatric hospital development board confirmed that in the past five years it has spent more than a million euro on children's hospital PR.

The external private advice given by Q4PR includes:

* €204,000 in 2015

* €274,000 in 2016

* €276,000 in 2017

* and €248,000 in the first half of 2019

In the letter interim CEO of the national paediatric hospital development board, Jack Golden, said the money was spent in accordance with the communications consultancy service contract allowed for under spending rules.

However, Independent TD Catherine Connolly said the spending level is "unacceptable" given other demands within the health service and the damage caused to the children's hospital's reputation in recent months.

"Honestly, I find it... I don't know why they feel the need to spend that much money on communications services, I really don't.

"I think it just... for the record I think it's unacceptable that much money is spent. I don't think it's good value for money and I don't think it's necessary," Ms Connolly said.

After PAC chair and Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming interjected to say "to think well over one million euro has been spent on consultancy and PR, well", Ms Connolly repeated her concerns, saying: "I think the story of a new hospital is sufficient in itself. Why we would need to sell it, really, I don't know."

Meanwhile, during the same PAC meeting it also emerged that the HSE spent a further €11m on consultancy services for the new national children's hospital last year. After confirming the figures from a document provided by the HSE, Mr Fleming said the PAC will be seeking more information from officials on the consultancy spending levels.

He said the HSE figures show the 2018 consultancy costs of €11.2m include:

* €3.6m on an ICT digital hospital project

* €3.5m on clinical and operational support

* €1.8m on design and transitioning

* €1.8m on corporate services and workforce change management

* and a further €400,000 on what was described as "project management consultancy"

Additional figures also show the HSE spent €17.5m on legal fees last year, including €9m on solicitors, €3.37m on barristers and €3m on third party legal cost reimbursement.

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