NHS Chiefs Sip Champagne at Taxpayer's Expense in Luxury Hotel During Economic Downturn
The Departmental Board at the Department of Health spent two "away-days" in the luxurious Great Fosters hotel this past September. Staff included the NHS chief executive and the chief medical officer. The health minister, Ben Bradshaw revealed that the nine health officials claimed £626 in expenses for this year (and nearly £4,000 per year in 2005 and 2006), but no formal minutes were produced. According to Bradshaw, the following departmental staff attended the departmental board away day :
Hugh Taylor (Permanent Secretary)
David Nicholson (NHS Chief Executive)
Liam Donaldson (Chief Medical Officer)
David Behan (Director General Social Care, Local Government and Care Partnerships)
Richard Douglas (Director General for Finance and Chief Operating Officer)
Richard Mundon (Director of Operations)
Ralph Coulbeck (Policy Adviser, Office of NHS Chief Executive)
Alison Ismail (Principal Private Secretary to the Permanent Secretary)
Stephen Mitchell (Head of Governance).
Great Fosters was once the heart of Royal Windsor Forest in Surrey, and remains one of England's most celebrated historic hotels with royalty, film stars, emperors and literary icons as regulars on their guest lists. The moated Elizabethan house costs an average of £200 a night- more than enough to feed a large family for a week. But is this stretched out of context? Surely, our NHS chiefs and Whitehall officials are doing the best they can regarding the state of our public health system that deserve a short break like this? Or should these hard working highly paid staff be allowed to sip champagne in hotel balconies while most of us are tightening our belts and saving every shilling from an economic recession with increasing hospital parking costs and longer waiting lists?