KPMG accountancy firm was paid nearly £450,000 by the Welsh Government to work with Swansea Bay University Health Board, which has been struggling to meet a statutory duty to break even over three years.
It was one of the reasons in 2016 that the health board – then Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board- was placed in “targeted intervention” status by ministers.
This status sits between “enhanced monitoring” and the most serious “special measures”, and enables the Welsh Government to mentor health board leaders and appoint experts to help with clinical or governance matters.
This explained the input of KPMG last financial year, which cost the Welsh Government £449,640 including VAT.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “This was a one-off commission to support the organization in developing its 2019-20 financial and recovery plan and focus on financial sustainability and the three-year financial plan.
“This support, therefore, is not an ongoing arrangement.”
He added that KPMG secured the contract through a competitive procurement process and that it has also provided specialist advice to Hywel Dda University Health Board.
Earlier this month Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services, erased £470 million of debt amassed by four of Wales’s health boards over the last six years, including Swansea Bay.
Mr. Gething said: “This level of historic deficit is clearly a barrier to the NHS as it starts to plan for the long-term recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and it holds these health boards back from achieving financial balance.”
Swansea Bay University Health Board remains in targeted intervention for now. Accounts for 2019-20 indicate £931 million operating costs and a £16 million deficit.
A health board spokesman said the KPMG work had been helpful.
He said significant improvements had been made by the health board in cancer and stroke services and hospital-acquired infections since 2016.
Unscheduled care, he added, was also in a better position.
The spokesman said: “The health board’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, including its ability to deliver services in a completely different way and the response of staff to dealing with the challenges, has been a testament to the strong and stable position the health board is now in.”
Planned care, he said, will take “some time to recover”.
The spokesman added: “The board was disappointed in the 2019-20 financial out-turn but there is now a clearer financial strategy and, informed by the work of KPMG, stronger financial management in place.”