The Department of Health has been criticised for spending £36,000 on a two-day residential course for gay and lesbian NHS managers.

The programme is run by gay rights charity Stonewall to encourage achievement in gay and lesbian staff.

Between 30 and 40 NHS managers and would-be managers are to attend the leadership course at Ashridge Business School, which is at a Gothic manor in Hertfordshire, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance and the Patient Association both criticised the £1,000-a-head trip.

Emma Boon, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, called it a “luxury junket” and added: “It’s questionable whether or not gay managers need specific training and marking them out for special treatment like a high-end breaks in mansions could even create resentment.”

The Patients Association criticised the “exorbitant” costs of the training while front-line staff are losing their jobs.

Stonewall said that many gay and lesbian NHS workers face discrimination in the workplace.

The charity added that the accommodation was not luxurious.

A Department of Health spokesman told the newspaper: “We are funding this programme to create a network of skilled and senior people to promote lesbian, gay and bisexual equality at local and regional levels.”