The mayor of Tower Hamlets is calling on the chair of a local charity to resign after it paid her large consultancy fees out of NHS funds.
The Island Health Trust owns the Isle of Dogs medical centre of the same name and has built up a £1.3m surplus in its accounts by, councillors claim, a strategy that saw the charity raise rents on local GPs and force them to cut services.
In the last two years the trust has spent £350,000 with Suzanne Goodband Interim Solutions, a company owned by Goodband, a former NHS hospital boss who chairs the Island Health Trust.
Concerns were raised with the charity commission last February about the “use of the charity’s funds” and last December the regulator launched an investigation into Island Health Trust after it confirmed that “a trustee of the charity received significant benefits relating to a strategic development project”.
Mayor John Biggs’s office confirmed to ELL that he has written to Goodband asking her to resign. The mayor’s intervention followed a motion proposed by councillors Dave Chesterton and Candida Ronald who began investigating the charity in summer 2016. Ronald said: “We’re not going away. This is my doctor’s surgery, they’ve got tens of thousands of patients. It’s an enormous practice, and lots of people’s health depends on that.”
Ronald told ELL the trust was set up as the result of a local campaign to get healthcare onto the Isle of Dogs. Part of its funding was a loan, that was to be paid off by rent from the doctors’ surgery. Once it was paid off the trust was expected to earn a small surplus that would be distributed to local health charities.
Since the loan was paid off, however, the trust has increased service charge to the doctors, forcing them to abandon the first floor last year, which housed training facilities and a psychiatric nursing space. Ronald said: “Island Health Trust now seems to have become an active (sic) ‘getting-in the way’ of the doctors’ work.”
The trust has now created cash reserves of £1.3 million pounds, and with the value of their property and investments they have over £4 million pounds in total. Ronald said that Goodband “is taking unacceptably large amounts of money to pay herself for strategies which have nothing to do with the purpose.”
The most recent accounts state the purpose of the payments are for “consultancy services relating to strategy, property development and management, public sector stakeholder management and an interim executive role to run the day-to-day operations of the charity”.
The financial statement says the health centre is “expensive to run, environmentally unfriendly, and not the best arrangement for modern health and social care”. It goes on to say that it will be rebuilt in the next five to eight years. However, Ronald has accused Goodband of having “ambitions for the site that didn’t include necessarily supporting the health centre”.
Both the trust and Goodband have refused to comment on the story while the trust is under investigation by the charities commission.