Spending nearly £2bn on NHS redundancies is a 'slap in the face' for nurses, says Peter Carter

RCN general secretary Peter Carter has criticised the total cost of NHS severance payments

The Department of Health (DH) has spent nearly £2 billion on redundancy payments in the past five years, which the RCN has described as a ‘slap in the face’ for nurses.

While nurses were experiencing a pay freeze, £1.8 billion was spent on severance payments from the health service.  

Between 2010 and 2015, while the coalition government enacted a major NHS restructure, there were more than 44,000 NHS redundancies.  The redundancy payment bill for 2014/15 alone was £220 million.

In the past five years, there were payoffs of more than £100,000 for more than 3,000 staff and 475 received more than £200,000.  

More than 5,500 people who were made redundant since 2010 have been re-employed in the NHS. 

The figures come from an analysis of DH annual accounts by the Labour Party and have been confirmed by the DH. 

RCN general secretary Peter Carter said: ‘It is shocking to learn that nearly £2 billion has been spent on making staff redundant at a time when the NHS is suffering from a major staff shortage, particularly as 5,500 of them were then rehired, making their redundancy payments literally money down the drain.

‘This news is a slap in the face to nursing staff; while they were experiencing a pay freeze, more than 3,000 staff received more than £100,000 in redundancy payments. 

‘To recruit and retain much needed nursing staff, the workforce needs to be recognised and valued.  Instead, while they have endured pay constraints, others have received these excessive redundancy payments.’

A DH spokesperson said: ‘New figures this week actually showed that our changes saved far more than expected at £6.9 billion [between 2010 and 2015], and cost less than originally estimated.’

In a written ministerial statement, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the DH had estimated the cost of the government’s health service reforms between 2013 and 2015 - including staff redundancies, IT for new organisations the cost of setting up clinical commissioning groups and closing other bodies - would be £1.5 billion.

But he said the costs to March 2015 were £1.38 billion, and the total costs were forecast to be under £1.43 billion. 

Mr Hunt said a reduction of central administrative staff by 18,000 since 2010 has helped the NHS increase the number of qualified clinical staff by more than 23,500, including more than 8,500 extra nurses and 9,000 extra doctors.

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