MP criticises health authority chairman

AN MP has reacted furiously to a letter by the chairman of NHS Suffolk in defence of spending nearly �500,000 on a new car park for its headquarters.

Kate McGrath

AN MP has reacted furiously to a letter by the chairman of NHS Suffolk in defence of spending nearly �500,000 on a new car park for its headquarters.

John Gummer, Tory MP for Suffolk Coastal, has accused chairman Alastair McWhirter of “being out of touch with the people of Suffolk” and said spending money on additional car parking is “absolutely indefensible”.

His outburst follows a letter published in Friday's EADT in which Mr McWhirter defends the decision to spend �475,000 on a farm opposite its plush riverside headquarters in Paper Mill Lane, Bramford, to create more parking for staff.

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He also defends the fact the decision was made behind closed doors and not through the board.

Mr McWhirter writes: “This decision was taken in accordance with the approved standing financial instructions of NHS Suffolk.

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“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.”

However, Mr Gummer said he was left “absolutely outraged” by his defence.

“This is just another unjustifiable example of exorbitant spending by the NHS. The priority of the PCT 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.”

He added: “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.

“If you are going to make a capital purchase of nearly half a million pounds than it should be decided by the board. Mr McWhirter is saying it was reasonable for officers to make this decision without referring it to the board.

“It did not go before the board for ratification, rather notification, and the board was in no position to turn it down.”

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.”

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