Payoffs to Tyneside married NHS couple criticised by medical leaders

Redundancy payments given to an North East NHS married couple have been branded “completely unacceptable" by medical leaders

Karen Straughair, who was chief executive of NHS South of Tyne and Wear
Karen Straughair, who was chief executive of NHS South of Tyne and Wear

Medical leaders have branded the payoffs given to an NHS married couple “completely unacceptable” at a time when patient services are facing increasing financial pressures.

Karen Straughair, 50, and Chris Reed, 57, collectively received a redundancy payment of almost £1m when the Government’s restructuring of the NHS meant Primary Care Trusts were axed on April 1 this year.

The husband and wife were both chief executives of NHS trusts in the North East and within months of their jobs ending they were quickly re-employed in prominent jobs at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust.

Jake Turnbull, Royal College of Nursing Northern Region spokesman said: “It’s completely unacceptable. The Government keeps telling frontline nurses that they can’t afford a pay increase.

“But at the same time, senior managers in the NHS are receiving huge payouts as part of the revolving door policy that is a direct product of the latest NHS structural reorganisation.

“It’s particularly demoralising for the workforce, because it gives the impression that there is one rule for the frontline, and another for senior managers.

“It has more than a whiff of hypocrisy to it, but regardless of the optics, it makes it even more difficult for the Government to argue with any credibility that a pay increase for frontline nurses is not a viable option.”

Ms Straughair, who was chief executive of NHS South of Tyne and Wear, was paid £605,000 when the trust was axed.

Mr Reed, who was chief executive of NHS North of Tyne, received a redundancy payout of £345,000 when his organisation was wound up the same month.

In June Ms Straughair began work as a recovery director at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust and Mr Reed was interim chief executive. They recently left those positions.

There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by the couple, or any senior member of staff.

Dr George Rae, chairman of the North East British Medical Association, said: “I do not want to comment on anyone’s personal circumstances.

“As far as the principle is concerned, and particularly at a time when the NHS is having to save billions of pounds over the next four years, it is very disconcerting that people in the health service are allowed to get a huge payment and then are quickly re-employed in the health service again.

“During this time of austerity, and potential cuts in future funding for Northern Clinical Commissioning Groups, many people and patients will be amazed at this and consider how many services could be provided, particularly if this sort of scenario is replicated throughout Britain.”

The Government’s unpopular health reforms meant that the 161 bodies responsible for buying services for the NHS were wound up and all staff working there made redundant. Clinical Commissioning Groups were set up as a replacement to the services lost.

A Department of Health spokesman said the Government wanted to see pay restraint in the NHS.

He added: “The Health Secretary has been clear that very senior managers’ pay in the NHS needs more restraint.

“We have set out proposals to cap redundancy payouts for senior managers and claw back all or part of the payment if they return to work for the NHS within a year of being made redundant.

“The one-off redundancy costs in the local accounts published should be measured against the fact that we are freeing up £5.5bn efficiency savings this Parliament, as well as £1.5bn every year after that.

“Meanwhile there are now nearly 8,000 fewer managers and over 4,000 more clinicians than there were in 2010.

“Taxpayers want to reduce bureaucracy and increase frontline care staff. That is what we will deliver.”

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