While public sector workers — from nurses to civil servants and police officers — were dealt a blow in July after chancellor George Osborne announced another four years of public sector pay freezes, NHS bosses are not feeling their pain.
The Guardian revealed today (September 29) that a senior NHS executive and close adviser to health secretary Jeremy Hunt was given a £410,000 “termination payment” in addition to his £235,000 salary.
David Flory announced in March that he would be leaving his post as chief executive of the NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA), which oversees all NHS trusts. The TDA has since merged with Monitor, a health service regulator, and have come together to become NHS Improvement.
His retirement payout comes at a time during which legislators are moving to cap public sector pay offs, explained Unite head of health Barrie Brown.
“Legislation before MPs aims to cap all public sector payoffs at £95,000 before Christmas – David Flory’s payoff is four times that amount,” he said. “The question has to be asked: how many more public sector bosses are going to sneak under the wire with outrageous payoffs before the legislation comes into force?”
The department of health said that his payout reflected “over 20 years at board level where his dedication and exceptional service were invaluable to the NHS.”
But a healthcare analyst told the Guardian that, while payouts for NHS senior executives were common, this one seemed “unusually large”.
Brown agreed, saying, “This is a disgraceful reward for mediocre performance.”
“David Flory’s brief was to ensure that all NHS trusts became NHS foundation trusts – he has failed to achieve this corporate goal. This is another reward for failure that sickens the public.”
Indeed, as the Health Service Journal reported, the TDA was set up in 2012 — the same year Flory was appointed as chief executive — with the goal of all NHS trusts achieving foundation trust status by 2014. Flory admitted failure on this front when he was forced to revise the timeline to 2018 late last year.
NHS Trusts face ballooning deficits as well. The government body Monitor has said that Trust deficits may reach £1bn pounds for the Trusts it overseas, which amounts to three-fifths of trusts in total, with NHS Providers, a charity representing most Trusts, puts this figure at £2.1bn based on feedback from its members.
Last year, there was a £830m deficit across all Trusts.
GMB national officer for health Rehana Azam was, like Brown, incensed at the news of Flory’s payout, specifically at a time when NHS finances are in the pits.
“The question is did the secretary of state for health sign off this package? she asked. “And if so, what rationale has been applied? We can’t ignore the fact three quarters of trusts are showing a deficit. How has the value of a package this size been determined against such bleak NHS forecasts?”
Brown noted that [the payout] was “particularly insensitive given the current dispute that the government has with junior doctors over their pay and conditions which, if it is not resolved fairly, will see hundreds of talented young doctors going abroad to work.”
The new contracts that junior doctors are now facing will see their “standard hours” redefined from 60 to 90 hours, meaning they will not be compensated for working unsocial hours — much more stress for less pay. Junior doctors already earn very little, currently around £23,000 a year.
Flory’s golden goodbye comes against a backdrop of skyrocketing NHS executive pay.
In April it was revealed that NHS boss pay went up by £35m over the last year, with the total wage bill increasing from £570m in 2013 to £605m. Had their pay increased in line with nurses’ pay by 1 per cent, the health service could have saved almost £30m — enough to pay for 1,300 nurses.
Even at a time of vicious government cuts, the number of NHS executives with pay packages worth more than what the prime minister earns went up by 30 per cent in the last year alone, to nearly 600 bosses.
Barrie Brown demanded answers from the health secretary.
“The rationale for [Flory’s] pay-off is a mystery at a time when the NHS is faced with very real cuts to budgets and services – perhaps health secretary Jeremy Hunt could shed some light on this pay-off?”