CASH-strapped hospital bosses in St Helens have spent almost £14,000 buying iPads for staff.
The purchase of 36 tablet computers, which allow users to shoot videos and access web and emails services, at a time of financial austerity has raised questions about NHS spending.
And it comes as new figures reveal St Helens and Whiston hospitals’ private finance initiative debt is among worst in the country.
Bosses agreed to buy 36 iPads at a cost of £385 each, bringing the total lay out to £13,860.
It’s unclear whether the gadgets are being used by medical staff or management but NHS chiefs say buying iPad will save the trust money.
However, politicians and campaigners have raised concerns about whether the high-tech products represent value for the taxpayer.
Former mayor John Beirne branded the purchases a luxury the health service can ill-afford.
He said: “It’s utterly ridiculous to spend that amount of money on iPads.
“We’re the people who are paying for these gadgets so where is the benefit for the patients.
“Who is monitoring that these items are only being used for work purposes and not to play games and such like?
“I’d also really like to know which staff have been given iPads.
“If it is the management, and I suspect it is, then that’s worse because with the wages they earn, they can afford to buy their own.”
A spokesman for the TaxPayers Alliance added: “Technology is constantly evolving and it is important that hospitals have the right kit to save lives and improve patient care. But a trust in financial turmoil must justify the purchase of iPads at a time when money is tight.
“IPads are a premium product that are one of the most expensive tablets on the market. Taxpayers will want to be assured that their purchase represent value for money.”
However, Tory local group leader David Monk said: “It does seem like an awful lot of money but they won’t have gone into it with their eyes closed and it could improve efficiency.”
A hospital spokeswoman said: “The trust employs 6,000 staff and relies on computer technology to manage many of its systems.
“The iPad costs are much less than providing personal computers and provides significantly better data protection.”
The National Audit Office revealed last week the trust’s PFI debt repayments were among the highest in the country as a proportion of its turnover.