Saolta paid €400,000 to consultancy firm

Letterkenny University Hospital.

A consultancy firm hired to facilitate workshops between Saolta management and staff at Letterkenny University Hospital was paid more than €400,000 for its services.

Ernst & Young spent five months last year working on the project in a bid to improve communication channels between the two bodies.


For every week it spent working on the issue the London-headquartered firm received almost €20,000.

Ernst & Young was brought in following the publication of a damning report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) which found weaknesses in oversight arrangements and governance structures at the hospital.

HIQA’s review was carried out following incidents of delayed diagnosis of endometrial cancer which led to the publication of the Price report in August 2020. This report found women who suffered delayed cancer diagnosis were wrongly triaged and not booked in for follow up appointments in some cases.

In the wake of the conclusions hospital group Saolta – which oversees services in Donegal, Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo and Leitrim – vowed that an external team would be brought in to address the shortcomings.

Saolta CEO, Tony Canavan outlines plans for winter.

Saolta boss Tony Canavan previously said that as well as developing a “shared vision and mission” for the hospital, he wanted to improve governance structures between his officials and Letterkenny.

“We also want to look at key issues around communication,” he added.


The initial indication was that a team from NHS Scotland would be flown in to address the issues. But it was later agreed that a ‘professional services firm’ would be appointed instead.

That professional services firm was Ernst & Young, considered one of the world’s ‘big four’ accounting and consultancy companies alongside Deloitte, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

It is not immediately clear what work Ernst & Young carried out but in response to a Freedom of Information request from the Donegal News, Saolta has confirmed that the consultancy giant was paid close to €419,000.

“The invoices paid to date amount to €418,783 for the period February 2022 to July 2022 and are in respect of consultancy expertise to support change management at Letterkenny University Hospital,” a Saolta spokesperson said.

On the back of the workshops a new senior manager has been appointed to help address governance issues at the hospital and will take up the role in spring.

The HSE regularly turns to consultancy firms when it needs their professional knowledge.

In 2021 Ernst & Young billed the health service just over €19 million for a range of services it provided during the pandemic. These included financial analysis work, data analytics, testing and tracing operations and supporting national integrated operations for the HSE.

Letterkenny Councillor Gerry McMonagle is Vice Chair of the Regional Health Forum West.

He said yesterday he would like more details about what services Ernst & Young actually provided.

“It seems an inordinate amount of money to pay anyone never mind consultants to talk to your partner in delivering health services,” Councillor McMonagle said.

“I would like to know how so much money being paid out to consultants can be justified.

“What budget was this money paid out of and what exactly was the service that Ernst & Young provided?”

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