The NHS Cuts – There Must Be Another Way …

I read with interest over the weekend a story that was published in the Yorkshire Post. The story claims that in Yorkshire last year alone, £42m of taxpayers’ money was spent on exit deals from the NHS. A sign of the times and the recession, that Health chiefs are forced to axe hundreds of jobs in NHS cuts, you might argue.

As with everyone in times of recession, belts need to be tightened and the NHS is no different. However one does have to question the logic behind the NHS job cuts – “let’s save the taxpayer money by making redundancies at the NHS but then negate the savings made by making a large and unnecessary pay off to those staff”.

Figures show that the biggest job losses due to NHS cuts in 2011-2012 were at the Northern Lincolnshire & Goole Trust which shed 174 staff at a cost of £7.4m. The Airedale NHS Trust saw 102 staff depart in exit deals which cost 3.9m while Rotherham’s bill totalled 3.4m as it axed 107 staff. Accordingly this means that 383 jobs were lost at a cost to the taxpayer of £14.7m, equating to an average pay off of £38,381.20 to each member of staff.

Now whilst I would never wish to deprive an employee of what they are entitled to, it does beg the question is this a good use of taxpayers’ money? Or would the NHS (and the taxpayer) be better off if those sums were spent on frontline services rather than paid to staff leaving? Now there is some argument that by getting staff to waive their legal rights under a compromise agreement, the NHS achieves certainty that no staff can bring a claim against them. However as an employment solicitor I would argue that if the NHS undertook a proper and fair redundancy process with these staff, they would not have a claim in any event. The cost of properly advising the NHS to undertake a redundancy process would not even come close to £42m!

I have acted for a number of staff under previous NHS MARS (Mutually Agreed Resignation Scheme) and I have always been surprised at the level of payouts staff receive. Even in the situations where normally the staff would not even be entitled to any payment bar their notice payment (i.e. if the staff have under 2 years continuous service) they still receive very generous payouts under the terms of the scheme.

I would argue that this is just another example of the public sector receiving far greater employment benefits than those employed in the private sector. However I do wonder how much longer the taxpayer will be prepared to do this whilst complaining that they don’t receive the necessary level of treatment. Why not simply give the NHS employees the level of payment they are legally entitled to (their statutory redundancy payment) and leave the balance for the original reason the taxpayer paid it – to go towards providing front line NHS services? To any NHS executives reading this…..there is another way…..

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