BUNGLING health bosses have paid a £70,000 cancellation fee to Harvard University after pulling out of a course – designed to teach business skills.
NHS Lothian previously spent more than £1m sending dozens of senior staff to the prestigious university’s business school.
Chiefs at the troubled board then signed another contract worth almost £600,000 with Harvard in the belief they could get health executives from elsewhere in Scotland to take the course.
But only a handful signed up for the trip to Massachusetts, forcing NHS Lothian to scrap the contract and pay the Ivy league institution a £71,471 cancellation fee.
Sarah Boyack, Labour MSP for Lothians, said: “This looks like a huge waste of public money.
“It seems that assumptions were made without firm commitments from other health boards.
“They should have been made to sign on the dotted line before NHS Lothian went ahead with this and ended up carrying the can for the cancelled bill.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw slammed the health board for its “vanity project”.
He said: “The public would not approve of this, however popular it was in NHS Lothian, and it seems health boards across Scotland feel the same.
“While saving cash now is a bonus, it is utterly careless and bizarre that our tight-squeezed NHS is having to pay one of the world’s richest institutions £70,000.”
NHS Lothian previously signed a £1.1m contract with Harvard to send 43 bosses to the university to study business.
The health board was so pleased with the results it signed a further £572,000 contract, confident it could get NHS chiefs from other bodies to travel across the Atlantic.
But only 10 NHS managers from outside Lothian were bothered to take the course.
The penalty payment incurred as a result of the contract flopping can be ill-afforded by NHS Lothian.
The board is expected to miss its savings target by more than £9m this year. To make matters worse, it has been embroiled in a long-running scandal over massaging waiting lists.
Alan Boyter, HR chief at NHS Lothian, said: “The Scottish Government and other health boards agreed that the programme had an extremely positive outcome.
“However, when it came to the extension of the programme across Scotland, the actual number of people put forward was insufficient for the programme to proceed.”