HEALTH bosses and GPs stayed overnight at a four-star hotel — at a cost of more than £4,000 — to discuss how to save £18 million.

The 24-hour event, spread over two days, at the Marriott Hotel, in Worsley, cost Bolton’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) £4,060 — £145 per attendee.

Su Long, Bolton CCG’s designate chief officer has defended the event and said after looking at alternatives, the hotel was “the best value offer”.

But she added the CCG, which is a new body set up to replace the Primary Care Trust, would be reviewing it to make sure it was the “best use of resources”.

Ms Long said it would have taken the staff “two months of normal meetings to get through the amount of work” they completed at the hotel, as it allowed them to work “rapidly and intensively”.

The 28 health chiefs and GPs spent the time discussing how to find their target savings amount of £18 million and creating a “strategic development plan” for the next financial year.

But the decision to hold the event at the Worsley Hotel has been criticised.

The hotel, which has a pool, spa and fitness studio, charges about £100 per night.

A member of the public, who asked not to be named, said the event included two buffet lunches and dinner and added: “Is this good use of public money, when most of them live with in easy travelling distance and NHS staff are being made redundant? “Could they not have used somewhere less expensive or free to have a team-building day?”

Cllr Andy Morgan, who sits on the Health, Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said he understood the need to have a strategic development event but questioned the decision to hold it at a Worsley hotel, which is just over eight miles from Bolton.

He added: “If they are going to spend that money they should be spending it it in Bolton.

“I wouldn’t question that they need to come up with strategic development, they need to get their heads around everything and they have got an important job to do.

“But if they have to spend that money, they should be spending it supporting the local economy.”

Members of the CCG’s board and leadership team, and 17 GPs, who are clinical leads, gathered at the four-star hotel at 1pm on Thursday, January 31, and left at 1.30pm the next day.

They worked until their evening meal, which was included in the package, socialised during the evening, stayed over and continued to work the next day.

Drinks and other refreshments were paid for by individuals, and some people chose not to stay overnight.

Ms Long said: “We take very seriously someone who is concerned we would waste tax payers money, we really consider what we spend our money on.

“I have felt on reflection it has been a really good use of time and resources, but obviously we always need to look at it and reflect whether it has been a good use of money and whether we should do it again.”

She said the CCG had chosen a hotel in order to get people away from the distractions of work and it was something they had learned from other organisations.

GPs were able to complete their morning surgery before travelling to the Worsley hotel and in the evening, they were able to “reflect” on the day’s discussions before being “really motivated” the next day.

Ms Long added: “We are a new team and organisation and it is the sort of day that we think is useful for planning the start of the year.”

The CCG discussed how to make efficiencies of £18 million.

It needs to save £12 million but is aiming for an additional £6 million for future years.

Ms Long said because of government cuts to CCGs, they were being forced to “spend more to do the same level of care” and needed to find savings so they could continue to provide new services.

Jane Bradford, a Harwood GP and the CCG’s clinical lead for prescribing, said: “I found the sessions were valuable in working out our goals this year.

“As a clinical lead, I felt really pleased to be given the opportunity to work with the board in such a proactive way, and am sure the other clinical leads felt the same.

“It was also great to be able to chat to colleagues more informally, and I am sure this will help with us work together as a group more cohesively in the next few months and beyond.”