NHS Scotland executives have been accepting lavish invitations from Atos, despite the serious concerns surrounding the firm’s treatment of sick and disabled people.
THE benefits axemen of Atos are schmoozing NHS bosses with lavish corporate hospitality.
Atos, widely criticised for their handling of Scots’ disability benefit assessments, have just subcontracted much of the work to NHS agency Salus in a deal worth £22million.
And the Sunday Mail can reveal that health service executives have been entertained at golf events and exclusive dinners by Atos Healthcare’s parent company.
Labour MP Tom Greatrex, a strong critic of Atos, said it was “disappointing” that NHS bosses had chosen to accept hospitality from Atos Origin.
The boss of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has been a guest of Atos twice.
Chief executive Robert Calderwood accepted a place at January’s Glasgow Lord Provost’s Charity Burns Supper, a black tie bash in the Hilton Hotel.
Calderwood, who earns £165,000, also enjoyed a round of golf and dinner courtesy of Atos at De Vere Slaley Hall in Northumberland in June 2009.
Athlete Steve Cram hosted the event.
Calderwood said in his register of interests that he took leave to attend and paid his own travel costs.
The £145,000-a-year chief executive of NHS Grampian, Richard Carey, enjoyed a meal courtesy of Atos Origin at the Open golf at St Andrews in 2010. He said in his list of interests that the meal was worth less than £50, he paid for his own golf ticket and took the day off as leave.
We can also reveal that Atos Origin have given financial backing to the Institute of Healthcare Management Scotland, who describe themselves as “the leading professional body for health care managers”.
IHM Scotland’s secretary, Martin Hill, is also on the board of NHS 24.
Hill’s register of interests says the institute “occasionally receives financial support for educational activities from businesses, including BT and ATOS Origin”.
Greatrex, MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, called for an investigation by the Scottish Government.
“It is disappointing that NHS Scotland executives thought it acceptable to attend golf dinners courtesy of Atos, at a time when there are serious concerns about the firm’s treatment of the sick and disabled in Scotland.
“Questions must also be asked about how appropriate it is for Atos representatives and those receiving money from Atos to sit on NHS Scotland boards.
“Given the commercial relationship between Atos and NHS Scotland, the willingness of some health chiefs to accept Atos hospitality is of concern. People will question whether Atos and senior NHS Scotland figures have become too close.”
Greatrex also criticised an invitation to Gavin Thomson, senior vice-president of Atos International in Scotland, to attend the opening of Alex Salmond’s Scotland House – set up in London during the Olympics to attract investors to Scotland.
“Whilst the SNP make a big song and dance about criticising Atos in public, Alex Salmond and his ministers are only too happy to wine and dine Atos fat-cats in private at the taxpayer’s expense.”
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said Calderwood had spent his own money to help charities at both events where he was an Atos guest.
NHS Grampian said their staff “conform to the highest standards required of public servants”.
Martin Hill said IHM Scotland’s education programmes received funding from a number of sources, and his work there was “quite separate” from his role at NHS 24.
The Scottish Government said all NHS staff were bound by rules on gifts and hospitality, which health boards had to make sure were obeyed. Atos said they used hospitality “transparently and with the utmost integrity”.