'Horrified' campaigners slam £1m of staff exit payments at troubled NHS trust
- Credit: Steve Adams
A troubled trust paid three six-figure ‘golden goodbyes’ to departing NHS bosses while it remained in special measures, it can be revealed.
Exit packages – money employees are paid when made redundant or on leaving a company – given to staff leaving the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) last year was just shy of £1million at £996,526, an increase on the £924,169 figure the previous year.
Spending on temporary workers also leapt up by £7m in a year - with the amount paid to agency, short-term contract staff and inward secondments topping £40m.
That is up from £33m the previous year and £18m the year before that.
Stuart Richardson, chief executive officer of NSFT, said: “We redesigned some of our services last year to better focus on the future needs for mental health, and we follow clear guidance in the national NHS terms and conditions for redundancy."
Under national NHS redundancy arrangements, the level of redundancy paid reflects the length of service and notice period of those affected.
No packages were for members of the board.
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However, campaigners fighting for better mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk slammed the rise in exit payments.
“We are horrified that this figure has increased,” a spokesman said.
“(That’s) £1m which could have been spent on services. Which could have offered help to people who have been rejected for care, who haven’t even made it on a waiting list.”
The trust’s accounts for 2020/21 show that two six-figure sums between £100,000 and £150,000 were paid out for compulsory redundancies.
A further payment between £100,000 and £150,000 was agreed for another departure.
In the trust’s annual report for 2020/21, bosses state 14 redundancies were approved by the trust in a year as a result of “service and departmental restructuring” - a process sparked in 2019 after it was ranked ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission for the third time running.
The trust - which now has 4,400 staff, up from 3,806 in 2018-19 - was kept in special measures but improved its rating up to ‘requires improvement’ in January 2020.
The accounts show that no exit payment paid out in 2020/21 exceeded £150,000 - the previous year, two departing locality managers were paid between £150,000 and £200,000 on leaving their roles.
However, the total number of payments issued in 2020/21 increased to 20 from 17 the year before, with nine handed out last year classified as ‘compulsory redundancies’ with a further 11 listed under ‘other departures agreed’.
Of those, five were voluntary redundancies while six were contractual payments in lieu of notice.
In light of the sustained increase in spending on temporary staff, campaigners also called for greater scrutiny of NHS mental health spending in Norfolk and Suffolk.
Revealing they spent a total of £11.5m on staff classified as ‘agency’ workers last year, up from £10.8m the previous year, NSFT bosses wrote in the annual report that during Covid-19 they were “particularly in awe of all our staff, front line and corporate services, directly employed, agency and sub-contracted”.
NHS chiefs added that they “sincerely thank them for their hard work and dedication”, with NSFT increasing agency spend to help deal with the demands of the pandemic.
Mr Richardson added: “Agency staff provided immense temporary support to our organisation across the pandemic, which was one of the most challenging periods in NHS history, and we remain incredibly grateful for the continued commitment and care of all our staff throughout this time.”
However, spokesman for the Campaign for Better Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk said the public deserves “first-class care” when sick, adding that “staff need to be supported” in their jobs to ensure this happens.
“The horrendous increase in agency staff adds up to a scandalous waste of public money,” they added.
“Those appointed to administer this need to be monitored significantly more diligently.”
The full report and accounts can be accessed via the NSFT website.