An English consulting firm will receive more than $150,000 in fees and expenses for work that includes running "listening sessions'' for the Southern District Health Board and writing up the results, an Official Information Act response shows.
The board is paying the money to London firm April Strategy.
It did not consider any other company for the job, chief executive Carole Heatly confirmed in the OIA response.
The work was part of an "ongoing organisational transformation process'', she said.
Results from 23 listening sessions with patients and staff would be released when consultant Tim Keogh of April Strategy returned to Dunedin next month.
Fees include more than $26,000 for patient and staff surveys, and more than $26,000 to run listening sessions involving 169 patients and 985 staff members over seven days.
Writing up recommendations based on session feedback would cost more than $68,000.
Mr Keogh flew to Dunedin in March for the sessions, and returned yesterday, ahead of a third visit next month. His visit yesterday only involved an internal flight, as he was in New Zealand for other reasons.
Mr Keogh's fees and expenses totalled $152,784, including more than $15,500 for travel, accommodation and food.
Some of the costs were estimated, including expenses to be incurred next month.
In addition, the listening sessions cost the board almost $80,000 for venue hire and other expenses.
It also paid more than $8000 for a booklet to encourage staff ideas, which was a joint project with Otago Polytechnic.
Ms Heatly said the work was "central to our commitment'' to "provide even better care''.
Staff had been encouraged to speak up about concerns and experiences.
"Evidence shows that the safest healthcare is provided in organisations where all staff can speak up about safety issues, behaviours and improvement ideas, without fear.''
Staff had not felt "empowered to make improvements to services themselves''.
"April Strategy have provided support to our performance excellence team, to develop an approach to engage a much wider group of staff and leaders in innovation, so that we can better harness the ideas of frontline staff.''
While Mr Keogh visited Southern DHB on his own, his "expert team'' in London was involved in the analysis, Ms Heatly said.
The board did not consider other consulting firms because Mr Keogh had been strongly recommended by other DHBs, she said.
Commissioner Kathy Grant and her team said last month the only cost difference between Mr Keogh and a New Zealand consultant was the travel expense.
"Paying some air fares to get him here is the only difference from a New Zealand consultant, and he is clearly one of the best in the business,'' Mrs Grant and the commissioner team said.
Ms Heatly said there was no specific budget allocated for the work, and it fitted within the Southern Future project.
"The broader programme this contributes to is the commissioner's Owning Our Future plan, and Southern Future has become a unifying banner representing an ongoing organisational transformation process'', Ms Heatly said.