Hospital bosses spend �400,000 on modern art

THE HUSBAND of a dying woman who was denied life-prolonging drugs on the NHS has criticised hospital bosses for spending more than �400,000 on art.

Nikki Blunden, 37, was told in January that her breast cancer had spread and she had just months to live.

The mum-of-one received a second blow when her primary care trust refused to a pay for life prolonging drugs.

Eventually a stranger, Nazir Mohammed from Bristol, agreed to pay for the drugs which have kept her alive long enough to fulfill her wish to see her four-year-old son Thomas start school.

They have reacted furiously to news that health chiefs at Broomfield hospital have splashed out �421,000 on modern art at the new PFI wing which has just opened.

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According to the hospital, the art - which includes two three-metre tall human statues made from fibre glass and steel – will “reduce stress, speed up recovery and aid the healing process.”

But Mrs Blunden’s husband, Richard, a former forklift drug driver who now cares for his wife full-time, said: “Anyone with any common sense can see it’s a crazy idea and an absolute waste of money to spend money on art at a hospital, especially when people like my wife are struggling to get the help they need.

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“In this day and age when everyone is cutting back, the people at the top of this hospital are just completely out of touch.

“They should never have signed a contract committing themselves to this.

“When I go into hospital I don’t want to look at artwork, I want to know there is the equipment, the staff and the drugs there to help people.

“If people donate artwork for free then fair enough but that money should have been spent on things that really help sick people - nurses, cleaners, equipment and drugs.”

The family, who live in south Essex, added: “All departments in the NHS are struggling at the moment.

“They could have done so many things with that money rather than spending it on artwork.”

Emma Boon, from the Taxpayer’s Alliance, said: “This sort of profligacy simply cannot continue and shows that protecting the NHS budget from cuts is a mistake.

“This art purchase looks like madness to locals and hospital staff who are being told that there must be spending cuts, it just doesn’t make sense.

“I think patients and taxpayers would much rather have healthcare from their local hospital instead of expensive art.

“Broomfield Hospital needs to take the serious state of public finances seriously and start getting value for money for taxpayers.”

However, a spokeswoman for the Mid Essex Hospitals Trust, which runs Broomfield, said the art was part of Bouygues UK contractual commitment to the “Art in Health” initiative, so this money could not have been spent on mainstream NHS services

A statement from Bouygues UK and Mid Essex Hospital Services said: “The project aims to contribute to the overall aim of providing excellence and effective models of care, by enhancing the environment for everyone who uses the hospital and helping to reduce stress, speed up recovery and aid the healing process.

“The programme is funded by Bouygues UK as part of the company’s contractual commitment to the ‘Art in Health’ initiative, which was set in the original PFI brief to contractors.

“The company’s contribution totals �421K for the creation of nine commissions for display throughout the new hospital wing.

“The commissions were advertised nationally and the successful artists were selected by the Arts Project Team which was made up of Bouygues UK, the Trust and the architects of the new hospital wing. Public events were held throughout the implementation process for the public and the hospital staff to be informed of progress and the Atrium commission was voted for and selected by the public.

“Four of the Commissions (one per each level of the building) represent different aspects of the Essex landscape.

“The project team has worked hard to involve trust staff and the local community throughout the project’s development, hosting a number of different workshops to inspire involvement at a local level.

“This includes the glasswork classes carried out with Chelmer Valley High School GCSE art students whose designs were incorporated into the hospital’s final artwork.

“The project also includes pieces within the courtyards which are available to the public as areas for quiet contemplation and non-denominational glasswork within the windows of the new faith centre.”

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