UPDATED: Criticism mounts over ex UHMBT boss pay deal: £150k a year salary, car and benefits (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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UPDATED: Criticism mounts over ex UHMBT boss pay deal: £150k a year salary, car and benefits
FORMER health chief Tony Halsall is still being paid his £150,000 a year salary from Morecambe Bay University Hospitals Foundation Trust - despite stepping down in February last year.
The details of the former chief executive's agreement with UHMBT trust bosses have been suddenly released today by incoming board chairman John Cowdall, who only took over at the start of March.
Mr Halsall, who stepped down in February 2012, will continue to get his salary until October this year and is also entitled to his lease car and the costs of career management advice up to the value of £5,000.
It means that since he stepped down, he will have been paid a total of £225,000 - a year's salary plus six months notice.
Just last week, the troubled trust told its nearly 5,000 staff it had to find £30 million by next April and it should turn computers off at night to save £60,000, while redundancies cannot be ruled out.
During Mr Halsall's tenure at the trust, it was criticised on several occasions by watchdog, the Care Quality Commission. A police inquiry into the deaths of mothers and babies at Furness General Hospital is still ongoing.
On leaving the trust, Mr Halsall took up a secondment with the NHS Confederation where he remained on the same financial terms as his former post.
The confederation describes itself as 'the membership body for the full range of organisations that commission and provide NHS services'.
It represents acute trusts, ambulance trusts, clinical commissioning groups, community health service providers, foundation trusts, mental health providers, primary care trusts and independent and voluntary sector healthcare organisations that deliver services within the NHS.
Mr Halsall was replaced at UHMBT by new chief executive, Jackie Daniel, in August last year and the trust has around 30 outstanding legal claims from hospital service users.
Details of the pay agreement were swiftly condemned by Lakes MP Tim Farron, who has been campaigning to end the secrecy of NHS deals.
Mr Farron said the amount was ‘too much for failure’.
He said: “I have repeatedly called on the trust to let us know the level of this severance package. I have said all along that taxpayers have the right to know.
"The level of this package will shock people. £225,000 is too much for the failure that he presided over.
“I really do welcome the move by the new management to release this information today. They have started to turn the corner and this should be acknowledged. I will keep working with them to improve services and health outcomes.”
“However, we should also recognise that despite the failings of the previous management, working with Tony Halsall helped bring chemotherapy to Westmorland General, and we would not have made as much progress on the campaign for radiotherapy without him."
Barrow MP John Woodcock branded the deal ‘inexcusable" and a 'shameful act unworthy of our National Health Service'.
Said Mr Woodcock: "The managers of the time may try to say that a secondment (to the NHS Confederation) was the easiest way to ensure a swift change could be made, but whether or not that is true, their failure to be straight with the public is inexcusable.
“And this attempt to bury the news on budget day suggests the new management team have not learnt the lessons of the past.
“Everyone involved in this sorry affair – including government ministers – should make clear what they knew, and when, and face the anger of local people who want their taxes spent on patient care not secret deals.”
Commenting on the announcement was Dalton-in-Furness dad, James Titcombe, whose baby son Joshua died nine days after he was born at Furness General Hospital's maternity unit.
An inquest found staff had failed to pick up the infection that claimed his life.
Mr Titcombe, who has been campaigning for improvements in the way the trust is run, said of the news: "This is completely unacceptable and an insult to the many families who are still suffering as a result of failures under Mr Halsall's leadership."
Mr Halsall is currently listed on the NHS Confederation website as one of its associate directors where his role is described as leading: 'our work on the Hospitals Forum and Outstanding Leaders programme."
The Confederation arranged a series of meetings between September and December last year to: 'Provide a safe and informative opportunity for our member chief executives and accountable officers to speak honestly and candidly about problems faced in the day to day running of organisations and the solutions that may be available'.
It session in London, called 'Resilience' looked at 'how chief executives deal with crisis situations and how those who have left have been able to bounce back either within or outside the NHS'.
Mr Halsall is also one of 18 members on the confederation's hospitals forum.
The Gazette has contacted Mr Halsall and the NHS Confederation to provide an opportunity to respond to criticisms of the deal.
Before joining UHMBT, Mr Halsall also held a chief executive role at Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology NHS FT. He joined the NHS in 1980 as a nurse, before moving into various senior management positions across the North West.
Darren McSweeney, of the FGH Cancer Care Campaign issued a statement in response to the announcement:
"As the FGH Cancer Care Campaign team prepare for tomorrow (Thursday 21) night's emergency public meeting around the UHMBT proposed removal of inpatient beds from the Oncology unit at Furness General Hospital, we are astonished that such a deal with Mr Halsall was agreed.
"A Trust trying to save every penny, should be ashamed that this "pay-off" was agreed.
"The fact the deal was hidden with a secrecy agreement, then finally released in the same week that we are discussing the impact of cost saving measures with the Trust is nothing short of shameful."
The full press release from UHMBT, which runs hospitals in Kendal, Barrow and Lancaster, reads as follows:
"The former Chief Executive, Mr Tony Halsall, stepped down from the Trust on 24 February 2012, in agreement with the Trust Board.
"In an agreement with the Trust, he then took up a secondment with the NHS Confederation. The agreement provided for him to be paid his salary by the Trust up to 5 October 2013.
"Under the agreement Mr Halsall also retained his existing benefits, including a lease car, and the provision of career management advice to the value of £5,000 + VAT.
"In signing the agreement, Mr Halsall not only resigned as Chief Executive but also waived his statutory employment protection rights and any claims he had, or may have had, arising from either his employment with the Trust or the termination of that employment.
It went on: "John Cowdall, who became Chairman of the Trust on 1 March 2013, said: “It has been decided at the end of the secondment with the NHS Confederation that the Trust will pay Mr Halsall for notice, which is due under the terms of the legal agreement concluded with him in February 2012.
"This will end his employment with the Trust. Mr Halsall is entitled under his existing agreement to six months’ notice or salary in lieu of notice.
“The compromise agreement that he and the Trust signed in February 2012 contained a confidentiality clause which is standard when these agreements are negotiated.
"Such a clause prevented both the Trust and Mr Halsall from revealing any details of the agreement.
“I am aware that this clause has caused a great deal of disquiet in the minds of many individuals, including representatives of the media.
“It is for this reason that I am making public the terms of the severance arrangements that have applied.
"I would like to stress that Mr Halsall has received no more than his contractual entitlement. Notice periods of six months are common for appointments at this level and enable employers to advertise for and recruit a successor.
“The financial arrangements under which Mr Halsall was seconded to the NHS Confederation may well attract criticism.
" I would simply state that those arrangements facilitated the departure of the former Chief Executive and avoided the potential for a long drawn out dispute that would have been expensive and time consuming and also, enabled the Trust to move quickly to restructure the Board and recruit a new Chief Executive.
"The arrangement was also of benefit to the NHS more generally through the work Mr Halsall was able to perform through the NHS Confederation.
“I would add that these arrangements are being made public because both the Trust and I are determined to have such matters dealt with in an open and transparent manner.
“The public interest arguments for making such information freely available are overwhelming and with that in mind, I can confirm that any compromise agreements that are entered into from now, will not be the subject of any confidentiality provisions or so called ‘gagging’ clauses."