It beggars belief.
A Daily Telegraph investigation released today has detailed the almost 100 trips costing up to £100,000 a piece abroad taken by NHS bosses last year in order to recruit foreign nurses – many of whom stayed in post for just a few months!
In just two years, the Telegraph reveals, there was a nine-fold rise in overseas tours by NHS hospitals searching for foreign labour. Some enjoyed some truly delightful hospitality – not least bosses at the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, who stayed at the Hotel Divani in Athens, no doubt taking time out for a swim in the rooftop pool. The University Hospital of South Manchester Foundation Trust sent five staff to Romania, staying at the five-star Grand Hotel, to recruit a grand total of 11 nurses.
As the Telegraph reports, the General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing believes the related sums are “ludicrous.” We’re inclined to agree. At a time when the NHS is supposed to be finding efficiencies and savings, like most of the public sector, it’s indulging in unnecessarily expensive and seemingly ineffective jollies.
The problem, of course, is that with the NHS budget ring-fenced and the parties engaged in a bidding war to pledge more borrowed money to the Health Service there is precious little reason to innovate or save. Until we treat the NHS like every other Department, we’ll keep seeing stories like this, and the real funding crisis within the Health Service will continue unsolved.