Hospital pension fund pounds 2.5m adrift

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The Independent Online
THE ROYAL Masonic Hospital, one of the largest private treatment centres in Britain, is on the verge of financial collapse after years of corruption and mismanagement.

Receivers brought in to manage the hospital are now investigating the whereabouts of pounds 2.5m said to be missing from hospital pension funds. More than 60 staff were made redundant last week.

Although widely regarded by the medical profession as having some of the finest facilities in the country, the hospital, which, since 1986 has also treated non-Masonic patients, is a registered charity based in Hammersmith, west London. Masons fear it could now be sold off 'for peanuts' unless they can implement a rescue package.

The management was suspended in January by the Charity Commission and receiver Coopers & Lybrand brought in after a damning confidential report by Ashe Lincoln QC, the hospital's president. He concluded: 'My preliminary investigations have disclosed the greatest laxity in the general administration of the hospital and the especially chaotic position in regard to financial matters.'

He reported that Ronald Ling, the former chairman, was unaware that the hospital had bought a nursing home in Bottisham, Cambridgeshire, for pounds 3m.

Michael Gerard, the former pounds 35,000-a-year financial controller who was sacked, formed a company to sell his services back to the hospital for pounds 50,000 a year. On a trip to New York he used a hospital American Express card to run up a bill for three nights of nearly pounds 800.

Graham Ford, managing director with a salary of pounds 47,000, ran up pounds 1,400 in private bills on the hospital Amex card from last June. He did not repay the cash until December.

Mr Ford, formerly a haulage manager, was told to clear his desk last week by Coopers & Lybrand. The firm is still investigating his practice of ordering food and alcohol from the hospital stores for 'entertaining client and board members' at a house owned and furnished by the hospital.

Malcolm London, the receiver, made 62 staff redundant last week. Health union representatives are trying to get redudancy payments from the hospital which, say some Masons, is technically insolvent.