HOSPITAL inspectors have defended spending £80,000 on putting up staff in two luxury hotels in County Durham.

The details of how a total of 160 staff employed by the Care Quality Commission were put up in two four star County Durham hotels earlier this year while they carried out inspections of two NHS trusts in the area were revealed in a reply to a list of questions sent to the CQC by BBC Tees under the Freedom of Information Act.

The inspection staff were staying in the area in order to carry out detailed inspections of the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust in January and the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust in February.

A total of 110 CQC staff stayed for between four and five nights at the Redworth Hall Hotel, near Newton Aycliffe, while another 50 CQC staff stayed at the Ramside Hall Hotel, near Durham City, for the same duration.

The high cost of housing CQC staff in four star hotels was described as “an outrage” by North-East spokesman for the Unite union, Dave Martin, who pointed out that there were many cheaper alternatives in the region.

A former nurse from County Durham, Sandra Wheatley, told the BBC: “How many nurses could that £80,000 have funded? It seems extreme when there are cheaper options which are available.”

A spokeswoman for the CQC said: “The Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust have a total of 120 locations and the CQC inspection team visited every single ward of every core service provided by the trust, as well as a third of all of their community services, several substance misuse teams, and two adult social care locations.

"To cover such a large number of services required a larger team of inspectors.”

The spokeswoman added that the cost of putting staff up in County Durham did not exceed the room and meal allowance outside of London of £122.50 per night per head.

The CQC spokeswoman added: “The hotels we selected during our inspections were the most cost effective options that we could find to meet the requirements of our inspection team and the expenditure is in accordance with our procurement policy for accommodation.

"We are committed to ensuring value for money. Every year, our accounts are reviewed by the National Audit Office, which checks transactions to make sure they are appropriate, and so we are confident that we are spending public money wisely.

“Our new approach to inspecting hospitals involves much larger teams... When considering hotel options, we have to consider the hotel’s location, its proximity to the sites where the team will be visiting.”