Shock over mental health trust’s £5m redundancy bill

Hellesdon Hospital.

Hellesdon Hospital.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
6:30 AM

The mental health trust for Norfolk and Suffolk, which is trying to fill hundreds of vacancies, spent more than £5m on redundancy payments last year, it has emerged.

Union officials spoke of their shock after bosses at Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) admitted they had gone over their forecasted budget on redundancy costs as part of the organisation’s radical redesign of services.

The NHS trust had budgeted £4.8m for anticipated redundancies as part of its strategy to overhaul services to reduce costs by 20pc by 2016.

However, figures obtained from a Freedom of Information request have revealed that the NHS trust spent a total of £5.5m on 145 redundancies between April and December.

The trust spent £1.1m on voluntary and compulsory redundancy payments to 35 staff in the 2012/13 financial year.

The new figures come a month after officials from NSFT revealed that they were looking into the possibility of recruiting from Ireland and Portugal to help plug some of the 361 posts they are actively trying to fill. The trust has a total of 505 vacancies.

During a nine month period last year, 85 mental health staff left under voluntary redundancy agreements and 60 workers left under compulsory redundancies.

Campaigners said the latest news was further evidence that the NHS trust’s redesign of services was “awfully planned and executed”.

Emma Corlett, Unison spokesperson and mental health nurse said: “These redundancy figures are shocking, but sadly not surprising. Unison warned senior management in September that there was no genuine redundancy situation, yet the NSFT board ploughed on with voluntary redundancies at huge expense.”

“The loss of experience and expertise of the staff they have paid millions to leave is immeasurable. We need these staff more than ever in the current crisis. What is most staggering is that no one has taken responsibility. Had a frontline clinician made such a significant error in their work, they would not expect to keep their job.”

Unison issued a formal grievance against NSFT last month calling on bosses to put an immediate halt to its ongoing programme that is looking to reduce bed numbers by 20pc and slash £40m from the trust’s budget.

Jane Marshall-Robb, director of workforce and organisation development at NSFT, said it was difficult to forecast how much to budget for redundancies because pay-outs varied depending on a worker’s average salary, length of service and pension options. She added that individuals were granted voluntary redundancy in a bid to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies.

“In line with the trust’s service strategy and in the context of the wider financial environment, changes to the organisation structure and roles have been planned, consulted on, and implemented. This has meant that the trust has had to reduce post numbers in some areas, in a timely manner, rather than waiting to see whether natural turnover may take place in the necessary areas. Although these post reductions have been offset by vacancies and redeployments where possible, a number of redundancies have nevertheless taken place.”

“The cost of each redundancy is calculated according to nationally-agreed rules – according to length of service, salary, additional payments, and whether the person is able to take a pension option.”

“The trust offered redeployment opportunities to individuals on voluntary and compulsory redundancy pathways but, given the geographical spread of the trust and the positions offered, many of these were not deemed as suitable alternative employment,” she said.

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