Ministers splashed £100,000 on refurb of Matt Hancock's old office - while turning down pay hikes for junior doctors

2 February 2024, 07:21 | Updated: 6 February 2024, 11:31

Junior doctors pictured at a picket line during strike action last year
Junior doctors pictured at a picket line during strike action last year. Picture: Alamy

By Connor Hand and Natasha Clark

Ministers splashed nearly £100,000 on refurbishing the Health Secretary's own offices at the same time as turning down huge pay hikes for junior doctors, LBC can reveal.

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Offices at the 39 Victoria Street HQ were converted into an open plan office space and new canteen under the former Health Secretary, Steve Barclay.

Victoria Atkins took over the job from him at the end of last year in the PM’s reshuffle.

The plan was intended to bring NHS England staff into the building to encourage them to work closer together.

Government insiders stressed the flashy refresh was done as part of existing budgets and wasn’t extra spending.

The offices became famous for CCTV footage of Matt Hancock, with his lover at the height of the pandemic, but has now been transformed.

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The total cost of the Department for Health refurbishments in 2023 was around £140,000.

And £92,000 of that was for the Secretary of State’s office renovation alone, data seen by LBC reveals.

It was previously reported that Mr Barclay had held talks with a posh designer, Bon Collective, about the refurb – but it was done by internal contractors in the end.

He had wanted a coffee breakout zone, a media suite for interviews, and boardrooms for hosting foreign officials.

Junior doctor Olivia told LBC that spending the cash on an office refurbishment was "a little bit frivolous", adding "there were a few things he could have spent the money a bit better on".

Mr Barclay didn't have much time to enjoy the redesign, after he was moved to the Department for Environment in November 2022 in Rishi Sunak's last reshuffle, and Victoria Atkins took over.

A source close to Mr Barclay told LBC: “Steve Barclay and other health ministers gave up their individual ministerial offices on the ninth floor at 39 Victoria Street to work in an open-plan office on the first floor.

"Work was then carried out on the ninth floor to turn the vacated suite of offices into a meeting area accessible to all members of staff.

“The expenditure, which was published in full last year, related to converting the former ministerial offices into the meeting area.

“All work was undertaken by existing facilities management contractors and within existing, pre-allocated, annual budgets for property maintenance.”

The Department for Health said the work was done as part of a wider reform and efficiency programme, which has seen their headcounts reduced by one in six in the last year.

Current Health Secretary Ms Atkins told LBC earlier this week that her ministers would be meeting with junior doctors this week to discuss a way through the strikes.

They walked out for another six days last month - and are asking for a 30 per cent pay-rise which ministers say is unaffordable.