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130k extravaganza
Started by Derek Butler
Posted: December 17, 2006 at 22:42
17 December 2006
CASH-STRAPPED NHS THROWS CONFERENCE FOR BOFFINS WITH BANQUETS, FINE WINES, FREE BAR AND GOODIE BAGS..& IT COSTS YOU 128K*
SUNDAY Mirror INVESTIGATE
By Nick Owens
THE Department of Health blew nearly 130,000 of taxpayers' money on a lavish two-day party.

The 174 guests totted up a bill of 128,187 as they feasted on fine wines, food and fun during The Chief Scientific Officer's Conference at an exclusive hotel.

They also enjoyed a disco, free bar, and goodie bags and were presented with framed pictures of themselves on mock Hello! magazine-style front pages.

The party-gimmicks even made fun of hospital superbug MRSA, which claims 5,000 lives a year.

When the fun stopped, DoH organisers slept in luxury 290-a-night suites at London's Russell Hotel - all at taxpayers' expense with "full account to company".

The event - attended by Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt - was last night branded a disgraceful waste of public money at a time of a cash crisis in the NHS.


At least a dozen NHS trusts are bankrupt and the total debt across England's 103 hospital trusts is 1.6billion, putting under threat hundreds of A&E units and maternity wards. But for the conference, held on November 27 and 28, it seemed money was no object.


The DoH used the bash to entertain 174 of the country's most important health leaders from the "Government, the general scientific community and Healthcare Science".


It was organised by the DoH's own Events and Exhibitions Department, based down the corridor from the Health Secretary in Skipton House, London.


It was made the responsibility of three of the department's senior staff - manager Loretta Fermor and her assistants Laura Neilson, 35, and Julia Gale, 43 - dubbed the 3am Girls after our sister paper the Daily Mirror's showbiz columnists.


It was Julia who selected the Russell Hotel. The "3am Girls" also chose which companies win the contracts to organise DoH events.


An insider said: "Everyone's been joking about how these three women have been nicknamed the 3am Girls, because they're the party organisers.


"They take pride in organising impressive dos. It would be great if it wasn't being paid for with taxpayers' money." They hired PR company Oxygen Marketing who have billed them 82,261 for helping to organise the jamboree.


This included five months of planning, and they also charged for "delegates management" - believed to be simply ensuring guests are happy.


Documents show the DoH are footing the 42,987 bill invoiced by the Russell Hotel.


It details how they spent a shocking 1,300 on canapes, 3,000 on wine and a food bill of 5,200 at a dinner on the first night of the conference. Then 1,692 was spent on offering guests a memento to go home with. Another PR firm, Fantasy Imaging, was employed to create the Hello! magazine-style front pages - called CSO! - of guests partying.


On one the joke headline was used: World Exclusive! MRSA and P Diddy Get It Together... It's A Rap.


The DoH also picked up the tab for a private dinner for 10 at the nearby Charlotte Street Hotel, which cost 1,296.70. This brought the total cost for the two-day event to 128,187.


The 3am Girls were all made VIPs for the event, staying in the hotel's best rooms with "full account to company" so any extras were paid for.


Other VIPs were ambulance chief Robert Tunmore, Chief Scientific Officer Sue Hill, TV presenter Vivienne Parry - the conference host - and Tammy Hippersley, who works with the 3am Girls. Among the guests was Lord Patrick Carter of Coles, a member of Gordon Brown's Treasury Productivity Panel. Another, Professor Roger Ekins, has been a vocal critic of NHS policy.


Delegates paid 150 for a conference ticket, but this would have generated only 26,100 for the DoH.


The events team have organised a number of parties this year - including the Chief Nursing Officers' conference in Manchester and the Association of Directors of Social Services conference in Brighton.


A Whitehall insider at the conference said: "By the end of the evening people were staggering off to their hotel rooms looking the worse for wear."


Geoff Martin of the NHS watchdog Healthcare Emergency said: "When frontline staff whose jobs are on the line find cash is being wasted on beanos it will cause outrage."


And a spokesman for the Royal College of Nursing added: "I don't think doctors and nurses will be impressed with this."


Astonishingly, last night manager Loretta, 41, said she still does not know how much was spent on the event.


She said: "I can understand why people might be a bit p****d off but I have not yet got the final figures back.


"I don't think the conference was a waste of taxpayers' money."


Last night the DoH confirmed the cost - and revealed that 664,000 of taxpayers' cash has been spent on nine conferences in the last year.


A DoH spokesman said: "This was an important conference. There are strict rules in place to establish the most cost-effective way to run all events."

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Re: 130k extravaganza
Reply #1 by linda mccafferty
Posted: December 17, 2006 at 23:29
could you bloody believe that............ DISGUSTING totally disgusting " 3am girls "that lable alone makes them sound as if they have the morals of an ally cat .heads should roll over this ,but they wont will they ? they get away time and time again .how dare for patricia hewitt even to attend this she should hang her head in shame .
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Re: 130k extravaganza
Reply #2 by Maria
Posted: December 20, 2006 at 22:54
They say truth is stranger than fiction Linda, so unfortunately I can believe it. It is absolutely disgusting especially when we read about hospitals having to bid for cash to make them safer for patients. There isn't enough cash to go around and the government have the nerve to boast about investing money to fight hospital acquired infections, and then we see this.

Patricia Hewitt will never hide her head in shame, she has none and she has no conscience. Its about time she woke up and smelt the coffee.
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