Friday 19 August 2022 11:10 PM NHS blows £1million on 'woke groups' for staff trends now
Nearly 500 of these groups have been set up by health trusts across the UK – taking up around 36,000 hours of staff time a year. Despite ministers' calls for the NHS to cut back on 'waste and wokery', some groups use taxpayers' money to put on events around transgender issues, sexuality and racism, often held during the working day.
These have included 'tea and rainbow cake' picnics, a special session about pronouns and a Filipino martial arts performance. Amid fears of an impending winter NHS crisis, the audit by the TaxPayers' Alliance found there are now at least 493 networks across the UK health service.
These took up at least 108,807 hours of dedicated staff time over the last three years and cost the taxpayer £1,081,878 in this period.
The true figures are likely to be higher as only 111 out of more than 230 trusts responded to Freedom of Information requests. They only cover time spent running the groups, not attending them.
Despite ministers' calls for the NHS to cut back on 'waste and wokery', some groups use taxpayers' money to put on events around transgender issues, sexuality and racism, often held during the working day. Pictured: NHS staff at London Pride in 2019
It is feared the NHS is heading for another crisis this winter as it faces seasonal pressures and a post-Covid backlog in treatment.
Despite the National Insurance hike to raise funds and help clear the backlog, waiting lists have hit record highs. This week, the precarious state of emergency care was laid bare when one woman was forced to wait 40 hours for an ambulance. Last night, critics suggested taxpayers would be angered by the scale of NHS spending on 'right-on' causes.
Elliot Keck, investigations campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'Many of the networks are a questionable use of NHS time and taxpayers' money. While Brits wait patiently for their appointments and operations, NHS middle managers are busy organising right-on lectures and social events. Health chiefs need to scale back some of these unnecessary 'woke' networks.'
The £1million cost of the groups may appear nominal relative to the annual NHS budget for England of £152billion but MPs say the money could be better used elsewhere.
Multiple trusts admitted they plan to increase the number of networks they support, the funding they receive and the amount of time staff can dedicate to them.
Conservative MP David Jones said: 'When patients are being denied operations and waiting too long for care, expending taxpayers' money on networks like this seems wasteful at best and sinful at worst.'
Fellow Tory MP Sir Christopher Chope said: 'The funding and staff time going into these groups is symptomatic of the waste within the NHS. The Health Secretary should use it as an example of how existing funds could be spent more efficiently next time bosses ask for more.'
Staff networks are most likely to focus on