NHS 'paid £435m in redundancies'
The NHS has forked out hundreds of millions of pounds making staff redundant as part of its controversial health reforms, official figures show.
More than 10,000 full-time employees were made redundant as a result of the Health and Social Care Act, which came into force on April 1 this year.
Health officials paid out more than £435 million, an average of £43,095 per person, in redundancy payments.
Data from the National Audit Office (NAO) shows that senior managers at strategic health authorities and primary care trusts, which were abolished under the changes, received up to £580,000 in redundancy payments.
There were 44 "very senior managers" made redundant between August 2012 and March 31 2013, the NAO said, with an average pay-off of £277,273. Individual payments ranged from £33,771 to £578,470. But 2,200 staff made redundant between May 2010 and September 2012 were subsequently re-employed in the NHS, according to the latest NAO report into the health reforms.
The Department of Health (DH) sought to reduce the risk of staff receiving a redundancy payment from one NHS organisation and then being re-employed by another, but it had "limited levers to prevent this happening", the report states. Redundancy payments can only be reclaimed if the employee rejoined the NHS within four weeks of leaving.
The NAO report said that "further changes" will be needed before the right number of staff with the right skills are in place across the system, including further redundancies. It states that getting staff in place was the "biggest challenge" for the new organisations and all of them had sufficient employees to start operations on April 1.
Until March 31, the reforms have cost £1.1 billion to implement, and the DH is "confident" the total costs will not exceed £1.7 billion, the report states. The NAO said the transition, which saw 170 organisations closed and more than 240 new bodies created, was "successfully implemented", even though some parts of the system were "less ready than others".
Dr Mark Porter, chair of council at the British Medical Association, said: "Introducing radical changes to how the NHS is run and structured during a period of intense financial pressure has been a costly distraction to solving the real challenges facing the health service. To learn that some of the newly created organisations already face financial uncertainty is extremely worrying, particularly as they are still expected to make financial savings in the months, and potentially years, ahead.
"All the evidence is pointing to a worsening financial situation for the NHS and the Government needs to urgently rethink its approach. Most of the savings have come from pay freezes and cuts in the tariffs for services but this is neither sustainable or likely to deliver the long-term savings that are needed to protect patient services."