Health bosses have spent more than £4m on developing controversial proposals that could lead to the closure of a major south west London hospital.

NHS England has spent £4,158,311 on its sustainability and transformation plan (STP), a proposal expected to cut bed capacity at one of south west London’s five major hospitals - Kingston, Croydon, St George’s and Epsom and St Helier.

The money has been spent on paying managing consultants to draw up strategies across the country, with south west London incurring the biggest spends.

Some £1,807,340 was paid to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for “programme support” and a further £477,715 for "specialist commissioning work".

The figures, obtained through an FOI request, come despite numerous campaign groups and think tanks pointing to a growing crisis within the NHS.

This year Kingston Hospital has issued two warnings to residents to avoid using the service as it struggled to cope with increasing pressure.

Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association's council, said: 'It is outrageous that so much vital resource is being handed to consultancy firms for their part in delivering STPs which, ultimately, may never come to fruition.

"These figures are especially concerning given that everyone can see a huge crisis unfolding within our health service.

"The NHS is at breaking point, with record numbers of trusts and GP practices raising the alarm to say they already can't cope, and while frontline staff struggle to provide safe patient care in a service increasingly becoming unfit-for-purpose.”

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Kingston Hospital is one of the services lined up for the STP

In total, it was revealed that at least £17.6m has been spent by NHS bosses on developing proposals across the country, with 44 STPs created.

The NHS is hoping the plans could help save money in the face of an expected £900m deficit this year.

NHS England plans to make £22bn-worth of cuts by 2020.

The South West London Collaborative Commissioning group (SWLCC), made up of CCGs across the region, has developed the proposals.

A spokesman said: “"The consultancy support helped us develop specific parts of the STP with consultants working in particular on specific and complex financial and activity modelling, which required specialist expertise.

"There has been much discussion about numbers of hospitals in south west London, but we know we will continue to need all the hospitals we currently have.

"We have said previously, we don’t think every hospital has to provide every service."

Campaigners have claimed cutting services while dealing with an ageing population would leave the NHS facing overwhelming pressure.

According to a report by think tank The King’s Fund last month, the NHS may in fact need 17,000 more hospital beds to meet demands in care.

Janet Davies, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: "It is very hard to see how the Government can justify spending millions on management consultants, some of whom advise on cutting nursing staff to save money.”

Kingston MP James Berry has started a campaign to protect the “geographically important” Kingston Hospital from cuts outlined in the STP.

In December last year, the hospital opened a new emergency ward of six more beds in a bed to stem the crisis.

St Helier’s Hospital is considered by campaigners to be at serious risk under the proposals.