‘Cuts for everyone, except for them’ – Newcastle MP reveals top NHS pay in Commons debate

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15 Sep 2016

Yesterday, the debate on NHS ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans’ finally went ahead, on a Labour opposition motion, after being postponed last week. Sadly, deliberately rushed-out Government business truncated it to just three hours, as opposed to six.

What that means in practice is that, as MPs sit and wait to be called, the Speaker salami-slices
the time limits - first to five minutes, then four, then three – to get most people in. I was
fortunate enough to be called, and you can read the speech by clicking here.

But it meant crossing out and more crossing out, of line after line, as the afternoon wore on,
leaving little more than a list of facts to fit the time.

What I wanted to highlight, amid the closures we’re seeing monthly now, is how much top
NHS executives – and their management consultants - are raking off for themselves. Cuts for
everyone, except for them. This is the full speech I’d written about what’s happening in Staffordshire: 

"This so-called ‘transformation process’ has been going on in Staffordshire in pretty incompetent fits and starts since 2014, when we were labelled as one of 11 ‘distressed health economies’ across England, and lined up for ‘corrective discipline’.

Then, without further investment, the looming NHS deficit four years ahead stood at £217m, according to a secret report by accountants KPMG, which the Government refused to publish, but was nonetheless leaked to me.

By 2020/21, that will be £244m, or £347m counting in social care, according to Staffordshire’s draft Sustainability and Transformation Plan presented to NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens, behind closed doors, in Whitehall in mid-July.

In the meantime, of course, we have had the tragic Mid-Staffs scandal and the extra costs of the aftermath at Stafford County hospital.

In Written Parliamentary Questions since our return to Westminster, I have asked the Secretary of State to publish that plan. Of course, he’s declined to do so.

The NHS has, indeed, again pushed the secrecy default button. Yet the menu cooked up behind the scenes, is already being dished out in practice, with no meaningful public consultation whatsoever, playing fast and loose with traditional NHS guidance.

And it is being driven by cost-cutting, bullied through by NHS England, not rational planning to relieve burdens on A&E, make more of GPs’ surgeries and primary care or improve Social Services’ homecare for an ageing population. 

Even if, short-term, it increases the pressures on patients, their families, and A&E at our local Royal Stoke University Hospital in particular, where wretched sight of trolleys queuing up in corridors is now commonplace.

Before the summer, closure of Ward 4 at the local Harplands hospital took awayone such safe place for discharge for patients with mental health problems. My mother was there before she had a major stroke and died 18 months ago. My best man’s mum was pushed out by the closure before she, too, passed away this summer.

Cuts to the County’s Better Care Fund threaten the viability of drug, alcohol and other services, as well as the future of respite and rehabilitation facilities like Brighton House at Silverdale in Newcastle. My dad was helped there after suffering several strokes. 

Last month, we learned that both wards at Cheadle community hospital will close, further affecting discharges, while Social Services struggles to cope. Stafford hospital’s children’s A&E has also shut.

And last week staff at Newcastle’s community hospital at Bradwell learned that the three wards there are to close by this winter or next spring. Both my mum and dad passed away while there – my mum, who never recovered from her stroke, in the end for palliative care. 

All these moves mean that the pressures on the acute hospital will simply multiply.

As a county, Staffordshire does not fit together as a healthcare whole. While the north and west looks to Stoke, the south engages with Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Worcester even, and the east to Derby.

Rather than plan integrated care along those ‘pathways’, what’s on the cards now - behind the scenes – is a county-wide merger of everything, bar the Royal Stoke hospital (and Burton hospital, which will go to Derby).

That monolith – an ‘Accountable Care Organisation’, with no sense of irony - will fasten Staffordshire’s six local NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, two mental health trusts and its social care partnerships in a straitjacket, one-size-fits all. 

Yet the so-called Health and Care Transformation Board, with its £2m plus budget, has been anything but accountable so far.

Mr Speaker, one of the emerging scandals in all this will be how much NHS executives at the top – and management consultants - are raking off for themselves.

I have asked the Secretary of State to reveal how many staff on these new Transformation Boards are earning more than the Prime Minister. 

The Government’s medicine for the BBC is surely right enough for our NHS. Again, however, he has declined. Fortunately, not everyone in Whitehall agrees with this secrecy. So let me tell ministers what I’m told about Staffordshire.

The STP Programme Director Penny Harris was parachuted in, unusually, from outside the County after her predecessor was pushed out. We’ve yet to meet her, and she’s yet to introduce herself to all local MPs. 

She is being paid a salary of £168,000 a year, for a four day week. Her Deputy Sarah Carter is on £172,000, but this time for five. And as for the lead Finance officer, Neil Chapman, also parachuted in, the noughts rack up several notches higher. He’s on £244,000 per year.

That’s not only more than the Prime Minister, but higher than the basic salary of the Chief 
Executive of the Royal Stoke – one of the biggest and busiest hospitals in the country. More, indeed, than the basic salaries of the two chief operating officers of North Staffs and Stoke-on-Trent Clinical Commissioning Groups combined.

But unlike those bodies, these Transformation Boards are not open about top remuneration. . Add in two other execuitives on £131,000 at Staffordshire’s STP, indeed, and the annual bill - for just five of them - comes to £846,000.

With another £675,000 going into the pockets of KPMG, that’s over £1.5 million, all being shouldered by the local NHS, and therefore patients and taxpayers, without being informed.
These people really are devouring what’s left in the pot for ‘Transformation’.

Mr Speaker, while the Government drives through these cuts, while the Secretary of State continues his battle with the junior doctors, and caps pay to frontline NHS staff, such rewards at the top should – at the very least - be transparent, too."


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