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Waiting lists soared as boss’s expenses hit £34k in nine-month period

By Lisa Smyth

The man whose job was to keep hospital waiting lists down was paid more than £34,500 in expenses on top of an annual salary of at least £120,000 — while waiting lists in Northern Ireland hospitals rocketed.

At a time when hospital waiting lists were on the rise as the Government searched for the money to cover the swine flu pandemic, the Health & Social Services Board paid out thousands for the Director of Performance Management and Service Improvement to get to and from work.

The Belfast Telegraph can reveal Hugh Mullen, employed between September 1 last year and May 21 this year, was paid an annual salary of between £120,000 and £125,000 and received travel expenses totalling £21,629.

Over the nine-month period this equates to an average of £569 spent each week just on travel.

The Health Board released the details in response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Belfast Telegraph asking for details of all remuneration paid to Mr Mullen, who lived in Manchester while holding down one of the top health posts in Northern Ireland.

In addition, the request found Mr Mullen’s accommodation expenses topped £5,285, subsistence was almost £2,000 and a car allowance cost £5,613.

When Mr Mullen took up the post in September 2009 the number of patients waiting more than nine weeks for a first outpatient appointment was 4,559, while 2,068 waited more than 13 weeks.

However, the latest available figures show that at the end of March, while Mr Mullen was still in the post, the number of patients waiting more than nine weeks for a first outpatient appointment had shot up to 8,581, and 4,570 were waiting more than 13 weeks. At the time the figures were released, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey blamed the

sharp rise on the fact health trusts had been forced to suspend sending NHS patients to the private sector while he awaited clarification on funding to fight swine flu.

Chair of the Stormont health committee Jim Wells said he was shocked to learn of the expenses racked up by Mr Mullen.

He said: “£34,000 is equal to the salary of a very senior nurse. Whoever negotiated this contract with Mr Mullen needs to review their priorities. To pay that sort of money to allow someone to commute from Manchester to Belfast when he could have bought or rented a property in Northern Ireland strikes me as a golden- plated contract.

“And of course he is gone now. Not only did he cost a fortune, but his job was to reduce waiting lists but when he left waiting lists which were considerably longer than when he started.”

A board spokesman said: “The board was required to honour Mr Mullen’s existing conditions of employment, but indicated that these would cease after 12 months.

“The board stressed that Mr Mullen had brought extensive skills and experience to his important role in Northern Ireland, and has now moved to a more senior position in the NHS in England.”

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