NHS chief defends cost of leasing cars for staff

NHS Dumfries and Galloway bosses have defended claims that they are “out of touch with priorities” because staff are uneccessarily driving high-end cars leased by the department for them.

Labour politicians had requested a Freedom of Information release which showed that almost £800,000 was being spent on staff lease cars - some of which were Audi and BMW sports cars.

But NHS chief executive John Burns said in response that the cars were leased and staff charged in proportion to the make and model of cars they choose.

He said: “Let me be absolutely clear -of the 318 vehicles currently covered by the car leasing arrangements, 308 are operated by frontline staff - medical, clinical and community-based nursing and clinical support staff.

“The remaining 10 include community based managers, estates, administration and patient services managers, who by the nature of their work require to travel significant mileages.”

Mr Burns added: “The scheme was designed to give frontline staff in a predominantly rural area such as ours access to safe, well maintained, and efficient vehicles to carry out their NHS duties across the region. No board director has a leased vehicle.

“Staff who are eligible for the lease scheme can opt for a higher specification vehicle than the baseline scheme and are required to make the appropriate payments proportionate to the size, make and model of the vehicle they lease.

“To claim that the car lease scheme is a perk for executives is just not true.

“If the NHS Board were to re-imburse the appropriate mileage costs for all those staff on lease arrangements should they use their own vehicles, it would cost the NHS board £1,042,240 - an additional £258,000 annually

However, Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown commented: “Local people will be in disbelief at these figures. How on earth can we be told that frontline staff need to go but the luxury cars remain?

“It is unacceptable and shows the Scottish Government is out of touch with the priorities of ordinary people.

“If the choice is between a sports car for a manager or a nurse on the ward then there is no doubt in my mind which I’d prefer.”