Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been asked to investigate spending on luxury hotels and restaurants charged to a NHS corporate credit card used by a former Yorkshire hospital boss.
A stay at a five-star London hotel, a meal at a Michelin-starred Yorkshire restaurant and a purchase from baker Greggs are listed on bills in the name of Phil Morley, chief executive of Hull and East Yorkshire NHS Trust until his sudden exit in April.
The scale of credit card spending worth nearly £1 milion since the beginning of last year has triggered a decision by a new regime at the trust to axe all but two cards used by senior executives.
Mr Morley’s departure came ahead of a critical report by inspectors pointing to staff shortages and allegations of bullying but he was recently appointed chief executive at the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust in Harlow, Essex. He attracted headlines worldwide last year after appearing as Superman dancing through hospital corridors to Tony Christie’s Is This the Way to Amarillo? in a corporate video.
Among items on bills in Mr Morley’s name, released under the Freedom of Information Act, was a £817.50 stay last December at the five-star Royal Horseguards Hotel in Whitehall in London, home of the Secret Service during World War One. Less than a week later, a bill for £1,284.05 was paid at the four-star Montague Hotel in Russell Square.
Bills list spending of £631 at the Michelin-starred Pipe and Glass at South Dalton, Beverley, £350 at the 1884 Dock Street Kitchen in Hull and numerous meals at The Millhouse at Skidby, Hull.
Details of a £4,000 business trip to Florida by Mr Morley and two other executives, including time on a yacht, were made public in 2012. Other spending included £281.43 at Waitrose at Willerby, Hull, and £17.88 at Greggs.
Last night Hull North MP Diana Johnson, who has already raised questions over Mr Morley’s new appointment with Mr Hunt, wrote demanding an investigation into the spending.
“This new information about spending on luxury hotels and restaurants is on top of the issues about a bullying culture under the former chief executive that we’ve previously found out about,” she said. “It raises questions about the financial controls at the top of NHS Hull under its previous management.
“Frontline NHS staff have been going through several years of austerity, worsened by the wasteful top-down NHS reorganisation imposed from Whitehall, and these revelations will come as a shock to hard-pressed staff.”
Officials at the NHS trust said credit cards had been used to procure items including travel or accommodation, which may be required quickly or via online booking, and to buy items online to save cash. In some cases, the trust had been reimbursed.
It said there was no suggestion of fraudulent activity, with all transactions receiving the necessary approvals at the time.
Interim chief executive John Saxby said: “It is not possible for me to comment on why my predecessor paid for certain items with a credit card. What I am clear about however is my view that we should not be using credit cards unless it is absolutely necessary and we have already taken steps to significantly reduce the number of cards the trust holds.”
The Princess Alexandra trust did not respond to a request to comment.
The Hull and East Yorkshire trust yesterday announced long-standing Yorkshire NHS boss Chris Long will be its new chief executive. He had the same role at the former NHS Hull Primary Care Trust which faced controversy in 2008 over a decision to spend £500,000 on a yacht to train disadvantaged youngsters.
He said: “The trust has experienced a number of difficulties lately, and the operating environment in which the NHS as a whole finds itself at the moment is very challenging. Having previously worked in Hull for a number of years, I know that the hospital staff here do some truly amazing things, and that this trust has the potential to move from good to great.”