High-tech ‘excess spending’

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WIGAN hospital chiefs have been accused of wasting taxpayers’ money after being issued a laptop AND an iPad each.

Details released under Freedom of Information rules reveal that seven executive board members of Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust have each been issued with a laptop, ranging from a cost of between £600 and £956, and a BlackBerry Curve, with handsets worth between £91 and £378. And six of the seven employees of the executive team were given an iPad Retina.

The pressure group The Taxpayers’ Alliance today described the spending on gadgetry as “excessive.”

Costing for the iPads was not broken down, but overall, 13 were bought by the Trust to the value of £6,619 between 2009 and 2012.

Over the last four years, a total of £578,630 was financed on electrical communication devices. The trust spent £418,377 on purchasing laptops, while £154,634 was used to pay for Vodafone mobile phones and BlackBerry devices.

A trust spokesman said it was using mobile devices to enhance patient care and detect clinical information sooner. He added: “The trust uses mobile devices as a cost effective method of communicating and to provide mobile access to information resources and systems. Mobile devices are given to staff and clinicians to ensure that they can remain in contact with the hospital and have access to trust systems.

“The devices provide staff with mobile telephone services, allow remote access to email or to Trust IT and clinical systems that support patient care. Remote access is essential as we operate across four major sites.

“We are also evaluating how mobile devices such as tablets, smart phones and iPod touches can enhance patient care by allowing the immediate capture and recording of clinical information at our patients’ bedside or directly in clinic. Such real time information capture enables clinical decisions to be supported sooner.

“This could eventually lead to improved identification of deteriorating patients due to automated clinical observation recording and monitoring that such systems can provide.”

But the TaxPayers’ Alliance said that giving hospital chiefs three electronic communication devices was a waste of money.

Political director Jonathan Isaby said: “Technology is constantly evolving and it is important that hospitals have the right kit to save lives and improve patient care. But taxpayers will struggle to understand how NHS trusts can justify spending thousands of pounds of their cash buying up iPads for hospital bosses, especially when money is so tight.

“iPads are a premium product and one of the most expensive tablets on the market. And when senior executives have already been issued with a laptop and a BlackBerry, giving them a £500 iPad seems excessive. Taxpayers have every right to demand an explanation as to how the purchase of these expensive items represents value for money.”

Elsewhere, NHS ALW spent £36,807 on 45 laptops worth £24,378 and £12,428 on 21 iPads between 2009 and 2012, The trust spokesman added: “These business tools support our staff in delivering an efficient commissioning service for people using NHS services across the borough. Use of these tools is widespread across business because they save time, increase staff efficiency and reduce paper.”