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‘Scandalous’ - campaigners’ fury as failing NHS trust hands out nearly £1m in exit packages

PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 September 2020 | UPDATED: 08:47 28 September 2020

The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk dubbed the payments 'utterly scandalous' Picture: Geraldine Scott

The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk dubbed the payments 'utterly scandalous' Picture: Geraldine Scott

Geraldine Scott

Two NHS managers at the region’s mental health trust were paid six figures to leave their jobs while it remained in special measures, it can be revealed.

Exit packages – money employees are paid when made redundant or on leaving a company – paid to staff departing the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) last year totalled almost £1million (£924,169).

During the same year the trust spent £33million on ‘temporary staff’, including workers on short-term contracts and agency staff, according to its accounts for 2019/20. That is up from £18m the previous year.

The accounts show six-figure sums between £150,000 and £200,000 were paid to two departing ‘locality managers’ in a shake-up of departments in mid-2019, triggered after NSFT was ranked ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission for the third time in a row.

MORE: Mental health trust put in special measures for third time as failings branded ‘deeply disturbing’

The trust was kept in special measures but improved its rating up to ‘requires improvement’ in January 2020.

Airey Close in Lowestoft, where NSFT said it plans to spend £320,000 on a new specialist rehabilitation unit Picture: GOOGLE MAPSAirey Close in Lowestoft, where NSFT said it plans to spend £320,000 on a new specialist rehabilitation unit Picture: GOOGLE MAPS

The remaining cash was split between 15 other employees, with single payments ranging from below £10,000 to £150,000.

Seven of the exit packages were for compulsory redundancies, the accounts show. Some departments were restructured, including the locality teams, in a bid to “enhance leadership capability” after the trust was kept in special measures.

Mason Fitzgerald, deputy chief executive, said: “We knew in early 2019 that we had to reorganise teams and structures over this last year to change the way we work and improve the safety and quality of the services we provide.

“This resulted in a number of redundancies.”

‘Utterly scandalous’

Campaigners criticised the spending of taxpayers’ money in this way.

“To waste nearly one million pounds of funding meant for NHS mental health services on paying experienced staff to leave whilst simultaneously spending more than £33million on temporary staff is utterly scandalous,” said a spokesman for the Campaign for Better Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The amount of money spent on exit packages in 2019/20 is almost triple the £320,000 NSFT said it plans to invest in a new specialist rehabilitation unit for learning disability patients at Airey Close in Lowestoft.

The campaign spokesman said the money spent on exit packages would be better spent on delivering improved care, adding: “The people of Norfolk and Suffolk have deserved better for far too long.”

MORE: ‘Still more work to do’ – health secretary speaks over ‘special measures’ NHS trust in back yard

Mr Fitzgerald said the new structure is ‘clinically led’ and has been designed to ensure patients and carers are “firmly at the centre of everything we do”.

He added that there were 193 more (full-time equivalent) staff employed by the trust this year than in July 2019, with 185 in clinical roles such as nurses and doctors, with medical vacancies reducing from 31% to 22% in a year.

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