Health service payouts criticised

RESTRUCTURING Suffolk's health service in 2004 cost the cash-strapped health authorities more than a third of a million pounds in compensation to chief executives who lost their jobs, it was revealed today.

RESTRUCTURING Suffolk's health service in 2004 cost the cash-strapped health authorities more than a third of a million pounds in compensation to chief executives who lost their jobs, it was revealed today.

Until July 2004 there were three chief executives running three Primary Care Trusts in East Suffolk.

At that time there was a restructuring and while the PCTs retained their identities, their management was combined under a single chief executive.

The three existing chief executives all lost their jobs, and two of them received substantial pay-offs, it is revealed in the annual report of the PCTs.

Harper Brown was chief executive of the Central Suffolk PCT until mid 2004. His notice period finished on November 4 last year.

His salary was between £50,000 and £55,000 a year, and he received a severance payment of between £150,000 and £155,000.

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Lesley Watts was chief executive of the Ipswich PCT and earned between £80,000 and £85,000. She completed her notice period on January 10 this year and received a severance payment of between £195,000 and £200,000.

Suffolk Coastal PCT chief executive Ana Selby earned between £50,000 and £55,000 a year. After the reorganisation she moved to a new job at the West Suffolk Hospital and therefore did not get any severance payment.

The new interim chief executive covering all three PCTs is Carole Taylor-Brown. Her salary is paid by the Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority so is not included in the PCTs' accounts - although the Star understands her earnings are about £100,000 a year.

A spokesman for East Suffolk PCTs defended the redundancy payments saying the trusts had to follow employment law.

But Dr Ian Tate, president of Aldeburgh Hospital League of Friends, where health chiefs are proposing to save around £324,000 by cutting the number of beds available down from 36 to 20, branded the figures “outrageous”.

He said: “The money they want to save at Aldeburgh is relatively small compared to the amount they spend on management and salary and it's not right.

“The three PCTs in the east all have boards and directors at a very great cost - it's outrageous.”

Meanwhile MPs echoed the sentiments labelling the figures as “totally unacceptable”.

John Gummer, Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, said: “I cannot believe it. How are people supposed to believe that the PCTs are trying to save money when they see costs like these?”

David Ruffley, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, said: “The health bureaucrats must think we are stupid when they say that reorganisation will save money. It is a continuing shambles and I will be watching like a hawk to see if they can actually save money.”

The news comes just days after health chiefs outlined how they plan to cut its debts by selling off Hartismere Hospital, in Eye, Bartlet Hospital, Felixstowe, and cut beds at Aldeburgh.

Jeremy Peters, spokesman for East Suffolk PCTs said the payment for loss of office was a contractual obligation down to employment legislation.

“They had a contract, it was broken when it was decided to bring the three PCTs in east Suffolk together, and that was what they were entitled to,” he said. “You have to remember that there is now a lot more efficiency because of the integration.”

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