NHS part-timer's pounds 25,000 car

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A part-time National Health Service chairman has been given the use of a brand-new Land-Rover Discovery because he lives high on the North Yorkshire moors and is frequently snowed in in winter.

John Greetham, chairman of the Northern and Yorkshire Region of the NHS, took delivery of the pounds 25,000 car earlier this year. He is the only regional chairman to have a car provided and paid for by the NHS. The other chairmen use their private cars and claim a mileage allowance for official business.

He receives a salary of pounds 20,000 a year for his job on which he usually spends three and a half days a week. He lives at Lockton in the middle of the picturesque moors, and last winter he was snowbound on three days.

Previously, Mr Greetham headed the former Yorkshire Regional Health Authority where he had the use of a Range Rover. An investigation into Yorkshire by the National Audit Office, the public finance watchdog, was highly critical of the Yorkshire full-time executive, although not of Mr Greetham.

The NAO report said Mr Greetham maintained that he needed the Range Rover because he "lived in a isolated part of North Yorkshire where access was difficult in winter". But the report said there was no power in the NHS to provide cars for RHA chairmen and was critical of the executive for supplying with him one.

Details of his new car have emerged in parliamentary answers and letters from the NHS to Hugh Bayley, Labour MP for York. Mr Bayley is incensed that after the earlier episode of the Range Rover, Mr Greetham has now been supplied with a Land-Rover.

The MP has written to Alan Langlands, the NHS chief executive, asking for an explanation. "Where he lives is his own affair but surely the NHS should not contribute to the cost of access to his home," Mr Bayley wrote in his letter.

"Alan Langlands, the NHS chief executive, says this year's NHS budget is extremely tight and there is a real risk of service cuts this winter. It is wrong for the NHS to spend thousands of pounds on perks for a regional chairman when hospitals have to ration treatment for patients because of a lack of cash," Mr Bayley said yesterday.

The MP added: "If Mr Greetham really needs a Land-Rover to get home in winter you would think he would own one himself. There is no way the NHS should subsidise his personal lifestyle."

Mr Greetham was unabashed. He said he had no contract of employment and could be "sacked at a whim of a minister". He was not prepared, therefore, to move house. His region covers 10,000 square miles and, he said, public transport was poor. He used the Land-Rover purely for NHS business and had his own car for private use.

"My patch is not the same as that of other chairmen who can jump on a bus or get a cab," Mr Greetham said. "I am often snowbound and it is unreasonable to ask me to change my abode for an organisation that can just sack me."