Hospitals are saving millions of pounds through a clampdown on management consultants and agency staff, according the Department of Health.

It says data released by health regulator NHS Improvement show that hospital spend on management consultants dropped £42 million to £103 million in July-September compared to the same period in 2015.

The downturn follows the introduction of new spending controls to help hospitals improve their finances, including measures to reduce reliance on ‘rip off’ staffing agencies such as limiting the amount hospitals could pay for agency staff.

The DH says hospitals spent £3.3 billion on agency staff last year, and that NHS trusts are now being incentivised to employ permanent staff because they provide better continuity of care for patients.

NHS Improvement believes these measures could save up to £160 million by the end of the year, and remove £1 billion from the agency staffing bill by 2018.

“Our plans to clamp down on management consultants and rip-off staffing agencies are bearing fruit. Patients will see the reward with savings being reinvested in frontline patient care,” said health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

“I want the NHS to be the most efficient health system in the world and these figures show that, thanks to hardworking NHS staff and strong leadership, we can make savings and improve patient care at the same time”.