FIVE MANAGERS of troubled South London Healthcare Trust went on a £6,000 trip to a conference in America, it has emerged.
The trust, which runs Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, Orpington Hospital, Princess Royal Hospital in Farnborough and Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup, was plunged into administration in July having ended 2011 with a deficit of £69m.
The event in Kansas City, Missouri, was hosted by information technology contractors Cerner which has a £250m to £400m contract providing an IT system for seven London trusts including SLHT.
The conference from October 7-10, included a 1980s-themed street party called "The Bash" featuring free food and drinks at bars and restuarants in Kansas City's "power and light district".
SLHT special administrator Matthew Kershaw is thought likely to recommend the trust be broken-up in an interim report on its future to be presented to the health secretary on October 29.
Tom Smith, of Palace Estate, Bromley, expressed concern about the trip.
He has a partner who does not wish to be named who worked as a nurse at Princess Royal Hospital.
The 66-year-old said: "I am sure it has proved educational but they will be expecting to get bailed out by the government and spending all that money on a little jolly; I think it's disgusting.
"Somebody should be held responsible for all this.
"£6,000 might not be a lot to them because they owe many, many thousands of pounds but it sets a bad example."
Keep Our NHS Public campaign member Frances Hook voiced her worries to News Shopper.
She said: "The question is why have they got to do it now when nobody is supposed to know what's happening to the trust?
"The report is not out yet so why are they going there?
"We need to be told why and what the benefits are."
A spokeswoman defended SLHT's decision to send five operational and clinical managers to the event.
A statement said: "The conference was an opportunity to learn more about the Cerner IT system and how it is being used in other complex, multi-site organisations.
"The visit included visits to sites where the system has been implemented and focus on developing more detailed knowledge about the system benefits.
"This offers good value for money in terms of training, experience, and information available to our staff at the conference.
"This learning will help the trust work towards successful implementation with minimal disruption to services.
"The trip was paid for by the trust, at a cost of approximately £6,000."