NHS trust shopping list draws flak

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The wedding list, long the domain of fashionable couples seeking useful gifts as opposed to 20 toasters, has been adopted by an National Health Service trust hospital. The League of Friends of Barnet Hospital in north London has issued a "shopping list" for the public in its "Make a Million" campaign.

Where the wedding list might concentrate on decent china or cutlery, the Barnet shopping list is asking the public to raise cash and buy everything from basic stethoscopes to expensive ultrasound scanning machines identified on the medical gift list.

Geoff Martin, campaign director of the London Health Emergency lobbying group, criticised the shopping list appeal yesterday, stating: "At a time when the Government are telling us that they are pumping funds into the NHS we've got a prestigious new hospital begging the public to stump up cash for basic medical equipment." Mr Martin also claims that the "shopping list" equipment will eventually become the property of the private consortium who ultimately are accountable to shareholders.

Sue Maclellan, operations director of the Wellhouse Trust, denies that the public are being conned. "The equipment that is donated to the trust - and there is clear evidence that people have a need to give - will remain the property of the trust." She said that the trust would eventually face a lease bill for the new hospital and for equipment. "Essentially the more equipment we own, the less will be our bill from the consortium."

However, she said if the consortium did take over the ownership of all of Barnet Hospital, it would become responsible for the maintenance of all equipment and its replacement.

The LHE appears less than impressed. Mr Martin added: "This whole sordid exercise underlines the underfunding of the NHS. How long before hospitals start asking the general public to sponsor the cost of bedpans?"