HEALTH chiefs have spent £22,500 on 35 iPads for board members and senior managers.
It comes in the week that the Evening News revealed the city council was spending £18,000 on 58 iPads for councillors.
NHS Lothian said investing in the 3G tablets would save almost £40,000 a year on the cost of printing and couriering papers to board members.
Most sets of NHS board papers are about 350 pages in length and are published just a few days before meetings, with a set couriered to each board member. Instead, they will now be expected to download their papers and bring them along.
The devices have been set so that only basic functions can be used and no games can be played. The internet is available, but is restricted in the same way as other NHS Lothian computers, with sites such as YouTube and Facebook barred.
Dr Charles Winstanley, chairman of NHS Lothian, said: “We would be surprised if anybody objected to a small investment in technology that will save the board tens of thousands of pounds over the next few years.
“Electronic tablets are used in almost every walk of life now and are seen as tools of the trade. I can think of very few health boards that do not use this carbon-friendly way of reading papers.
“Our investment will be recovered in seven to nine months and ensure ongoing savings of nearly £40,000 a year.”
The board said iPads were chosen rather than other, cheaper tablets because they could be encrypted, had a longer battery life and could use iCloud to access papers without having to access a PC.
The iPads cost £17,500 and another £5000 was spent on set-up, software, encryption, IT support and cases. There will be an annual cost of £4500 for the 3G connection.
A cheaper option to spend £19,000 on iPads without 3G was rejected because the 3G versions allow users greater freedom to access e-mails.
Wednesday’s meeting of the NHS Lothian board was the first at which members used digital board papers.
Dr Winstanley said at the meeting: “I think it’s a really good decision which not only saves us money, but will be a lot easier once we’re used to it.”
Tom Waterson, Lothian branch chairman for Unison, said: “To be fair, the iPads in the whole scheme of things are relatively cheap and it does make financial sense. There’s also the green side of it, that we’re not churning out reams and reams of paper.”
• Cost of 35 iPads with 3G: £17,500
• Cost of management software, encryption software IT support, iPad cases: £5000
• Annual 3G bill: £4500
• Estimated annual saving on cost of board paper printing and couriers: £37,000
• Estimated sides of board paper printed out over six months: 194,182
• Refundable deposit payable to encourage “proper stewardship of the devices”: £50