The Norfolk hospital where £100,000-plus earners has risen by 400pc in just seven years

Former Queen Elizabeth Hospital chief executive Manjit Obhrai. Picture: Ian Burt

Former Queen Elizabeth Hospital chief executive Manjit Obhrai. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Concern has been raised about the money recouped by some senior NHS staff, as our investigation into public sector pay reveals the number of £100,000-plus earners at one Norfolk hospital rose by 400pc in seven years.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Day three of our week-long investigation focuses on the health sector, where the number of high earners has risen in spite of frontline pay freezes and cuts to NHS budgets.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), in King's Lynn, employed 103 members of staff, clinical and non-clinical, on a basic salary above £100,000 in 2014/15. That figure stood at just 23 in 2008/09, and 44 in 2010/11.

Between 2013/14 and 2014/15 the number of £160,000-plus earners rose from four to 16 and 130,000 plus from 19 to 42. QEH say, however, the figures are a sign of its success.

A spokesman said: 'In 2008/09 21 of the 23 were doctors, in 2014/15 100 of the 103 were doctors. This represents a success for the trust in attracting high quality, and hence well remunerated, medical staff to work at the hospital. These are on-payroll figures of actual earnings and all doctors are paid as per nationally agreed terms and conditions.'

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The rise in high earning doctors comes at a time junior doctors are embroiled in a bitter row over pay and conditions.

West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds, saw the number of staff earning six-figure salaries increase from 74 in 2010/11 to 123 in 2014/15 – a 66% rise. The number of very high earners on £160,000-plus also rose from eight to 15.

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Craig Black, executive director of resources, said the 'vast majority' of these staff are clinical, some of whom had received extra pay for overtime.

In 2013 QEH was placed in special measures, leading to repeated change at board level. Our investigation can reveal the crippling cost of staff turnover and how those brought in to turn the hospital around can expect to receive exceptionally high fees.

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In 2009/10 its chief executive was paid £145-150,000 annually, but when so-called turnaround expert Manjit Obhrai was brought in to run the hospital he recouped £270-275,000 plus £9,600 in expense payments for eight months work in 2014/15. A year earlier he received £120-125,000 for six months work.

He left in November 2014, shortly before the hospital came out of special measures.

Meanwhile, Mark Vaughan, director of HR, and Wendy Cookson, director of quality improvement, also left in November 2014, recouping £165-170,000 each in basic salary for eight months work.

On these figures the QEH spokesman added: 'The trust was subject to statutory discretionary interventions by the regulator.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at Colney.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at Colney. - Credit: Evening News © 2009

'One of these interventions was to require the Trust to appoint a new Chair and CEO, selected by the regulator. The trust is latterly able to determine its own appointments. The figures relating to Mr Obhrai's salary do not reflect the terms on which our current chief executive is employed.

'All executive salaries are benchmarked and are made publicly available. Other pay rates are determined by national NHS pay scales.'

The hospital also saw a big rise in exit package payouts, which totalled £39,000 in 2011/12 but £770,000 in 2014/15, of which six were between £50-100,000.

Unite's lead officer for health in East Anglia Mark Robinson questioned the amount of money going to health service senior managers. He said: 'The monies used for very senior staff should be used to improve patient care and begin to repair the terms and conditions for those working in the NHS to make it again an attractive career choice.'

The James Paget University Hospital at Gorleston. Picture: James Bass

The James Paget University Hospital at Gorleston. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2011

HOSPITAL DID NOT PROVIDE INFORMATION

Using the Freedom of Information Act, we requested the same information from all hospitals in the region regarding pay. The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) had not responded as we went to press, despite being more than two weeks over the deadline.

However, available figures from 2013/14 show the NNUH employed 322 of its 7,000-strong workforce on £100,000 or above, of which 115 received over £150,000.

The NNUH also spent £4m in four years on exit packages, including six over £100,000 and two over £150,000. The government has said it has plans to cap such payments at £95,000.

The pay of its chief executive remained fairly stable at £180-185,000, until 2013/14 when two successive increases for Anna Dugdale saw it grow to £190-195,000 by 2014/15. The NNUH did not reply to our questions.

At the James Paget University Hospital (JPUH) high earners have remained fairly static since 2010/11. It had 94 on £80,000-plus and 21 £100,000-plus in 2010/11 and 111 on £80,000-plus and 22 on £100,000-plus in 2014/15.

It has issued £650,000 in exit packages in four years, but only five above £50,000. As of 2014/15 its chief executive Christine Allen received £165-170,000, however medical director Nick Oligbo was the highest earner on the payroll, receiving £190-195,000, a rise from £185-190,000 a year earler.

Meanwhile, at the Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust, which employs around 2,000 people, £2.8m in exit packages were handed out in five years up to 2014/15, 10 above £100,000 and two above £200,000.

In 2012/13, then chief executive Michael Scott received £125-130,000, which rose to £135-140,000 a year later. The 2014/15 accounts list interim chief executive Mark Easton as having received £200-205,000 for just six months work upon Mr Scott's departure to run the region's mental health services. Mr Easton's full-time replacement, Roisin Fallon-Williams, was paid £90-95,000 for six months work. The trust did not reply to our comment request.

OFF PAYROLL AGREEMENTS

Senior public sector staff in the region continue to receive 'off payroll' payments for their work, despite government warnings over the practice.

Our investigation found several councils and NHS organisations in the region had paid staff off payroll, contrary to guidelines.

Off payroll positions are those where individuals, either self-employed or acting through a personal service company, are paid gross by the employer.

The House of Commons' committee of public accounts published a report on off payroll payments in September 2012, which said the practice 'generates suspicions of complicity in tax avoidance … fails to meet the standards expected of public officials' and must be avoided. 'Those whose income is derived from monies raised through taxation have a particular obligation to make sure that they do not use tax avoidance schemes,' the report added.

While acknowledging that such payments may be appropriate for 'those engaged on a genuinely interim basis', the report said they should not be used for those in management positions or working for a significant period with the same employer.

PENSION POTS

Senior NHS staff in Norfolk and Suffolk have amassed pension pots worth more than £1 million as part of a 'hugely generous' public sector system, which an expert has warned may not be sustainable for the taxpayer.

Our investigation has found that many senior health chiefs in the region have pensions with a substantial 'cash equivalent transfer value' – representing their notional value at the time.

Alan Higham, who set up www.pensionschamp.com, a free advisory website, said most schemes offered to public servants were 'top drawer' and very few private sector pensions could offer comparable value.

'The public sector worker can be very confident that they will receive a very generous pension, which the taxpayer guarantees on their behalf,' he added. 'If you wanted to find the equivalent level of that security in the private sector you would have to pay about 50pc of your salary into the scheme.'

Most private sector pensions are 'defined contribution' schemes, through which the employer pays in an agreed amount for each year of employment into investments, which can vary depending on how the market performs, meaning there is no guarantee how much an individual will receive over the course of their retirement.

In contrast, NHS pensions are 'defined benefit' schemes, which are based on an employee's final salary and length of service, and provide a guaranteed amount for each year of their retirement.

As a result, Mr Higham said it is very difficult to estimate their total cost to the taxpayer.

'There's a question mark about how sustainable these pensions are,' he added. 'We are potentially storing up a much bigger problem for the future.'

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