Monday, 14 July 2008

NHS 'scandal' of bonuses for bosses as ward staff face axe

Exclusive Mike Waites Health Correspondent

BUREAUCRATS at a Yorkshire health authority have been awarded performance bonuses worth £260,000 as front-line NHS staff face redundancy in drastic cuts to save cash, the Yorkshire Post can reveal today.
Angry union chiefs and MPs condemned awards to all 90 staff at the former West Yorkshire Strategic Health Authority (SHA).
The payouts come as 93 workers including nurses and midwives at four hospitals in the area were given 30 days' notice yesterday.
Staff at the health authority were given a "team reward" set at 7.83 per cent of annual pay for 2005-6, according to a document leaked to the Yorkshire Post.
Top managers picked up as much as £9,000 from the bonus, which was made after the NHS in West Yorkshire met key performance standards.
It has caused fury among other NHS staff at a time when the health service faces financial crisis. This has been further fuelled as none of the authority's staff worked on the front line and made no direct contribution to achieving targets on waiting times, access to GPs, cutting numbers of smokers or reducing levels of the superbug MRSA.
Yesterday the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust told 93 staff at Pinderfields and Clayton hospitals in Wakefield, Pontefract General Infirmary and Dewsbury and District Hospital they faced redundancy unless they could be redeployed. The trust faces huge financial difficulties with accumulated debts of £55m.
Last night Adrian O'Malley, of the union Unison at the Mid Yorkshire trust, branded the awards "scandalous" and vowed to fight compulsory redundancies.
"I've just had five A&E staff nurses in tears because their jobs are at risk," he said.
"It's scandalous NHS money is being squandered like this. The health authority is the one which is forcing trusts like ours to make these cuts. It's absolutely disgusting."
Local Labour MP Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) said: "The health service must get its priorities right and protect staff in the front line like doctors and nurses.
"It's cannot be right that when people are being made redundant others are receiving large bonuses."
Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley, said the awards were "bizarre".
"Most people would find it quite offensive that those people who have been delivering on the front line are getting redundancy notices while bureaucrats at the centre are cracking open the champagne," he said.
Peter Hanley, who supports patients at the regional spinal injuries centre at Pinderfields, said he feared losses of experienced staff put services "in real danger of collapse".
He said: "As an ex-patient I am deeply concerned that the trust's reaction to short-term financial pressures will have a serious effect on patient safety."
Official figures show the West Yorkshire SHA spent £3.3m on pay in 2005-6. The "team reward" of 7.83 per cent amounts to £260,000.
The organisation merged last month with two other health authorities where staff did not receive bonuses.
Last night a spokeswoman for the new Yorkshire and the Humber SHA said the bonus scheme was written into staff contracts when the authority was set up in 2002.
Final levels had been approved each year after a "rigorous" checking procedure by its remuneration committee which did not benefit.
West Yorkshire ended the financial year in balance, she added.
John Parkes, chief executive at the Mid Yorkshire trust, said it needed to reduce the pay bill by £18m – equivalent to around 450 fewer posts – to get finances in order.
Following reviews, 90 staff had been told their posts were at risk but redundancies would be a "last resort".
"The reviews looked at ways to safely deliver patient care with a reduced wage bill and make our services more efficient," he said.
There were a significant number of posts available to staff affected, he added.
mike.waites@ypn.co.uk