Cash-poor NHS spends millions on art - despite cuts that led to thousands of job losses

As one trust boasts of being the biggest art gallery in town, campaigners object to art purchases worth up to £5m

The NHS is spending millions of pounds on art, despite cuts that have led to thousands of job losses, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

Freedom of Information requests showed that 89 NHS trusts have spent nearly £2m on art since 2010, but the total is likely to be far higher, with 222 foundation and mental health trusts across the country.

Works include £8,000 steel giraffes at Tameside Hospital in Greater Manchester, an £83,000 water feature at Salford Royal, and a £120,000 “ceiling artwork” at Barts and Royal London.

One trust boasted of being “the largest art gallery in Liverpool”.

Art co-ordinators are employed by the NHS and paid up to £56,000 a year. NHS England said these are “usually qualified professionals with a broad knowledge of the arts”. A nurse’s starting salary is £21,000.

The NHS has been told to find £20bn in savings by 2015. The National Audit Office said in April that 10,000 staff had been laid off in the past three years. NHS campaigners have said it is “time to get real”.

The 89 trusts have spent £1,894,278 on art since 2010. If other trusts spend similar amounts, the bill could be £4.7m across the country. All 222 trusts were contacted, but most of the remaining 133 did not respond.

Barts and Royal London was among the biggest spenders, racking up a £270,000 bill. A Barts spokeswoman said research “shows that artwork and music improves emotional wellbeing ...  speeding up recovery.”

Aintree University Hospitals Trust acknowledged that most of the art was commissioned “when there was more money in the system”. A spokesman added that the trust “continues to support its provision for art in the face of tightening NHS finances”.

In October 2013, Aintree spent £13,600 on a metal-and-glass sphere, designed by Michael Condron. It also spent £2,000 on an abstract sculpture by local artist Will Spankie, a former hospital social worker, who insisted that art “has important therapeutic benefits”.

Paula O’Malley, Aintree’s arts co-ordinator, said the art spending also benefited the city: “We believe we are now the largest art gallery in Liverpool. In a time of tightening public finances, it’s a win-win approach.”

Salford Royal spent £194,000 on art, including £37,000 on 500 frames, £60,000 on photograph mounts and £83,000 on a water feature.

The Heart of England NHS Trust paid £2,310 for six pictures of medicinal herbs by Lesley Whelan. She criticised “random pieces of expensive artwork hanging on hospital walls”, but also said some art could have a beneficial effect, and that studies show “a reduction in anxiety, stress and depression”.

David Prentis, general secretary of Unison, the UK’s largest trade union, criticised the level of arts spending. “Hospital surroundings are important for patients as they recover, but when budgets are tight money should be spent on patient care.”

And the Keep Our NHS Public campaign group added that it was “time to get real and use the money more carefully”. A spokeswoman added: “We have 20,000 nursing posts unfilled in order to save money, and junior doctors working incredibly long hours, some of them covering for colleagues because there is no money for locums.”

NHS England said it was unable to comment, stating that it was up to each trust to decide how it spent its money.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own