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First class ban for NHS chiefs

NHS chiefs have been banned from spending taxpayers' money on first class rail fares and ordered to take the bus or tube instead of hopping in a cab.

The news comes after new figures showed nine health bosses spent almost £200,000 last year on food, travel and hotels.

The new NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has told colleagues to "think like a patient and act like a taxpayer".

He has banned expense claims for first class fares and told colleagues that they should always try to take public transport instead of taking taxis.

The figures, obtained by The Daily Telegraph, showed that nine people on the board of NHS England spent £195,802 between them on transport, food and hotels during 2013/14.

The newspaper found that during the organisation's first year former NHS boss Sir David Nicholson claimed £32,000, including £6,700 on taxis.

Tim Kelsey, national director for patients and information, spent £46,000 during the year, the newspaper reported.

Former national director for policy, Bill McCarthy claimed almost £500 for one night in a hotel in Berkshire, it added.

The spending has been dubbed an "absolute disgrace" by a patients' group.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients' Association, told The Telegraph: "It is an absolute disgrace when patients are waiting longer for care, when frontline staff are so overloaded, and when there are such difficulties in some parts of the service, to see this scale of excess at the top of the organisation. It truly beggars belief."

An NHS England spokeswoman said: "In his first address to staff Simon Stevens set the goal of 'thinking like a patient, and acting like a taxpayer'. He knows how important this is to the patients and the public.

"He wants the highest standards of transparency, governance and behaviour.

"He has already banned first class travel and made clear public transport should always be taken where possible."

On Thursday the new NHS chief, who took a pay cut when he started the role, will address the NHS England board on issues of transparency.

He will tell officials that as well as publishing expenses, they will also be required to routinely publish meetings with other organisations.

Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "When patient services face continued cutbacks and the majority of health service workers have been denied a 1% cost-of-living pay increase, it is galling for both NHS staff and patients that senior officials appear to be continuing to lavish spending on food and travel.

"Simon Stevens' promise to clamp down on his officials' expenses is sensible and fair. Senior NHS England staff will have legitimate claims to make and should not be prevented from travelling and engaging with frontline workers and their patients, but a much better balance must be struck between these claims and the pressing need for financial prudence.

"The health service is currently experiencing huge pressures on its resources so it is only fair that senior figures at NHS England show the same restraint being asked of staff and services."

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