Health trust under fire for £85,000 bill for Amsterdam conference

The Amsterdam conference started on Wednesday and finishes on FridayThe Amsterdam conference started on Wednesday and finishes on Friday
The Amsterdam conference started on Wednesday and finishes on Friday
Belfast Health Trust has been slammed over its decision to send 61 staff to a conference in Amsterdam at a cost of £85,000.

About 100 health workers from health trusts across Northern Ireland are attending the International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare.

While the Belfast Trust said it “booked the most cost effective tickets available”, it has not yet explained why so many staff were needed to attend the event.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Former public sector union leader Bumper Graham said the figure was “exceptionally high”.

“In situations like this a small number should attend,” he told the BBC.

However, GP Dr George O’Neill said he felt the biannual conference was “very important” and represented “value for money”.

The International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare, which began on Wednesday and finishes on Friday, is billed as “one of the world’s largest conferences for healthcare professionals committed to improving patient care and safety”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

According to the BBC, the Belfast Trust said the total cost of £85,000 would cover “flights, accommodation and the cost of the conference”.

It said the conference would “offer staff a tremendous amount of education, learning and ideas which may be adopted in Belfast to improve how we deliver services to our patients and service users”.

Of the 100 health workers from Northern Ireland attending the conference, it is understood the South-Eastern Health Trust sent 17 people, the Western Trust sent 14 people, the Northern Trust sent nine people, and three people from the Southern Trust are in attendance.

The Department of Health sent one person.The event is said to be attended by 3,000 delegates from over 70 countries.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In a statement, the Department of Heath said it had been alerted on Tuesday to plans for the Amsterdam conference, and immediately contacted trusts and other health bodies asking for full details of staff numbers attending and the costs involved.

A departmental spokesman added: “The department’s permanent secretary Richard Pengelly wrote to trusts and other HSC organisations in September 2016, reminding them of the need for effective and proportionate controls on staff travel.

“In particular, it was emphasised that all travel must: be fully justified in terms of making an important contribution to the business needs of the organisation; represent value for money; and not give grounds for public criticism.”