NHS bosses blasted over �11,000 bill for meeting

IPSWICH: As public bodies begin scouring the books for cost-cutting measures, it today emerged NHS pen-pushers splashed out �11,000 on a staff development day at a country house banqueting centre.

NHS East of England is laying on the event for 250 employees later this month at the Grade II-listed Chilford Hall Vineyard and Conference Centre at Linton, near Cambridge.

Situated just eight miles from the organisation’s offices in Fulbourn, the hall boasts a 20-acre vineyard, three wedding venues and a helicopter landing area.

But the outlay has prompted an angry reaction from Ipswich MP Ben Gummer, who said it showed health bosses were out of touch with the current economic climate.

“It seems that NHS bureaucrats have not understood that times have changed,” he said.

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“For several years, private companies have been forced to stop these kind of events in order to protect jobs. I shall continue to press ministers to abolish this wasteful bureaucracy.”

Plans for the away day come as the NHS East of England faces radical reform or even abolition in government cost cuts.

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A White Paper outlining the fate of strategic bodies is due to be published by health secretary Andrew Lansley over the coming weeks.

Health minister Simon Burns refused to be drawn on the future of NHS East of England on a visit to Ipswich Hospital last Friday, but he insisted that decisions should be made “from the bottom up, not the top down”.

Mr Gummer, who accompanied Mr Burns on the visit, said: “The idea is to make sure there are fewer bureaucrats and to cut spending by 30per cent.

“None of these people are elected. We want to make sure people have a say on the provision of these services.”

An NHS East of England spokesman said the conference was being held to ensure its staff remained “focused on delivering the change the NHS needs over the coming two years.”

He added: “We are holding a meeting of all staff to discuss the issues and agree how we face these challenges.

“The whole event is costing around �11,000 including hire of venue, refreshments, and appropriate equipment. We have taken great care to cut the costs to the bone, including the cheapest possible catering and audio equipment.”

NHS East of England chief executive Sir Neil McKay faced recent criticism after his salary leapt from �215,000 to �235,000 last year – an inflation-busting rise of 9pc.

The Evening Star also exclusively revealed in March how the organisation spent �6,000 on hiring the palatial Ickworth House, near Bury St Edmunds, for a meeting to discuss how to save money.

n Should the NHS East of England be abolished? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@evening star.co.uk

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