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.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
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

Argyll Scott International: Financial Accounting Manager

£300 - £400 per day: Argyll Scott International: I am currently recruiting on ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Based Sales Surveyor - OTE £40,000

£16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Field Based Sales Surveyor is...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: UI Designer/ User Interface Designer (UI, User Flow, Design)

£6000 - £60000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: UI De...

Investigo: International Finance Analyst

£270 - £300 per annum: Investigo: An exciting opportunity to join an internati...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?