NHS bosses accused of being out of touch

FREE-spending health bosses were today labelled “out of touch” after defending a highly controversial decision to splash out nearly �500,000 on a new car park.

FREE-spending health bosses were today labelled “out of touch” after defending a highly controversial decision to splash out nearly �500,000 on a new car park.

NHS Suffolk chairman Alistair McWhirter accused The Evening Star - which has raised serious concerns over the issue - of being unbalanced in its reporting on the purchase of a farm opposite its plush riverside headquarters in Paper Mill Lane, Bramford.

His comments were published in yesterday's Star.

But today, John Gummer, Tory MP for Suffolk Coastal, said he had been “absolutely outraged” by Mr McWhirter's defence.

Mr Gummer said the NHS Suffolk chairman was “out of touch with the people of Suffolk” and said spending �475,000 on additional car parking was “absolutely indefensible”.

“This is just another unjustifiable example of exorbitant spending by the NHS,” he said.

Most Read

“The priority of the Primary Care Trust is its own comfort and not the patients. It is run, not for the patients who it is meant to serve, but for the bureaucrats.”

In his letter to the Star, Mr McWhirter writes: “This decision was taken in accordance with the approved standing financial instructions of NHS Suffolk. These published and approved regulations provide for delegated powers for the executives to commit expenditure up to �500,000 without reference to the board.

“Such sums are at the low end of the budget levels these executives manage every day, having responsibility for a budget which in total exceeds �800million.”

But Mr Gummer reacted angrily to the suggestion the sums involved were “low”.

“For Mr McWhirter to suggest �500,000 is a small amount out of any budget is a front to all those people in my constituency and in Suffolk who cannot get the service they deserve from the National Health Service,” he said.

“If you are going to make a capital purchase of nearly half-a-million pounds than it should be decided by the board.”

Mr Gummer also made reference to the fact the money could be spent on a permanent building for Gipping Valley GP Dr Paul Thomas who has been operating from a portable cabin for 17 years or go towards the start of a specialist heart centre for Ipswich Hospital.

He added: “The chairman of NHS Suffolk is out of touch with the people of Suffolk. Unless he stands up for patients I do not see the point of having an independent chairman.”

NHS Suffolk declined to comment.

What do you think about Mr McWhirter's comments? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

The farmland controversy

NHS Suffolk has sparked outrage by splashing out �475,000 on farmland opposite its Bramford headquarters.

The decision was taken in secret by the chairman and finance director and did not go to a public board meeting.

The trust, which buys and plans healthcare in the county, wants to convert the 2.5 hectare space into car parking, and possibly transform a dilapidated farmhouse into staff facilities.

The extra parking spaces are needed partly because NHS Suffolk's staffing numbers have more than doubled from 80 employees in 2006 to 190 today.

The trust was warned in 2006 not to buy an out-of-town site with no access to public transport and little parking - but it pushed ahead regardless.

Creating the new car parking spaces will cost an extra �50,000 on top of the initial investment.