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Mental health trust criticised for directors’ £10,000 pay increases

PUBLISHED: 06:00 03 November 2017

Leigh Howlett, left, and Jane Sayer. Photo: Archant

Leigh Howlett, left, and Jane Sayer. Photo: Archant

Archant

Campaigners have reacted with outrage after it emerged four bosses at the region’s failing mental health trust were each awarded £10,000 pay rises last year.

Alison Armstrong, director of operations in Suffolk, Deborah White, director of operations in Norfolk, Jane Sayer, director of nursing, quality, and patient safety, and Leigh Howlett, director of strategy and resources, all had their salaries increased to £108,000 following a review in September 2016.

Dr Sayer and Ms Howlett both resigned last month after Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) was rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and plunged into special measures for the second time.

Ms Armstrong left the trust in January this year and received a £54,000 contractual payment in lieu of notice, which meant she could leave without working her notice period. Three months later she got a job at Colchester Hospital as head of operations for medicine and emergency care.

A spokeswoman for NSFT said: “The remuneration committee is responsible for determining the pay for executive directors and ensuring that pay levels are competitive. The committee holds an annual review of pay levels, taking account of available national, independent benchmarking information.

“In September 2016, the review identified that four of the executive roles were paid significantly lower than overall averages for comparable roles in mental health and in the region.

“An increase of £10,000 each was therefore recommended and approved (subject to the trust coming out of special measures, which it did) for the trust’s two directors of operations, the director of nursing, quality and patient safety, and the director of strategy and resources. This brought their individual wages to £108,000.

“This was in line with the average for mental health trust directors and more generally within the region.

“The other posts were already being paid around the average remuneration for comparable posts and therefore did not change.”

Meanwhile, pay rises for frontline NHS workers has remained capped at 1pc for a number of years.

The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk has slammed the move by NSFT.

A spokesman said: “These astonishing pay rises represent the unacceptable face of NSFT management.

“While NSFT bosses awarded themselves £10,000 pay rises for leaving special measures, NSFT was heading towards another inadequate CQC inspection, a return to special measures and the ignominy of becoming the undisputed ‘worst mental health trust in the country’.

“As mental health services have been cut and the remaining front line NSFT staff were restricted to a maximum of 1% pay rises, NSFT bosses decided to help themselves to pay rises more than ten times greater.”

He added: “Surely, now that the failure of NSFT’s management has again been exposed by the CQC, these unjustifiable rewards for failure should be removed from the recipients and instead invested in overstretched NHS services.”

UNISON, the public sector union, is running a pay campaign urging the government to scrap the 1pc cap.

Jeff Keighley, regional organiser for Unison, said: “This is public money. Obviously a trust’s remuneration committee would be where this is decided presently, but should it be? Frankly this decision needs to be fair from all angles.

“Why such a sudden measure was taken of a 10pc rise for directors; when their staff, who work on the front line delivering care and support and are worth at least the same only get 1%, means the decision was clearly wrong. Cost of living is up for everyone and dedicated front line staff have lost out on pay rises worth thousands vs inflation in recent years.”

NSFT was rated inadequate overall and placed into special measures following an inspection by the CQC in October 2014, but it had made sufficient improvements to exit special measures when inspectors returned last year.

During CQC’s visit in July this year, however, inspectors found services were unsafe and the trust had failed to address serious concerns, so it was dropped back into special measures and continued to be rated inadequate.

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