HEALTH chiefs have been condemned for spending £18,000 on sending three managers to the US – to learn about efficiency.
The trio from NHS Highland ran up an £18,300 bill for the trips despite the board facing a £12 million budget gap, including a £3.9m overspend at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.
Patients’ groups and politicians have demanded that NHS Highland justify the cost of the trips and explain how they will benefit Scottish patients.
The senior managers visited the Virginia Mason Medical Centre in Seattle for part of the two-month course which started in September this year.
The hospital is one of the best-performing in the US after basing its healthcare on the Toyota Production System created by the Japanese car maker. NHS Highland is working on its own version, which it describes as an “ethos” to capture the “spirit” of delivering healthcare.
But it cost the board £3,100 in course fees alone for each manager plus £3,000 to cover travel and accommodation.
Margaret Watt, of the Scotland Patients’ Association, said: “This money could have bought in another nurse. I hope and pray that training will be put to good use in the Highlands.”
Mary Scanlon, a Tory MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said she admired NHS Highland for recognising that “things can be done better”.
But she added: “NHS Highland needs to do more to tell people why it decided to spend thousands on training staff in Seattle.”
The chairman of NHS Highland, Garry Coutts, defended the spending as a “no-brainer”.
He said: “When I hear about the massive improvements to patient care that have been achieved in the Virginia Mason hospital…I feel it is a complete no-brainer for us to send senior staff to be trained.”