A DIRECTOR at a crisis-hit NHS trust has been away from work for six months while continuing to receive a salary of £185,000.
Professor George Thomson, the chief medical director at Rotherham Hospital, has not attended a board meeting since last October but NHS officials are refusing to explain his absence.
Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, which has been the subject of severe criticism for disastrous financial mismanagement and for having a “fractured”, “dysfunctional” board, has put an acting medical director in place on a salary of £132,000.
The Trust will not clarify whether Prof Thomson is suspended or whether any kind of investigation relating to his absence is taking place or whether he is ill.
Asked why Prof Thomson had been away for so long, the Trust initially said it “does not respond to requests in relation to individuals”.
Responding to a subsequent Freedom of Information request, the Trust said disclosure of information relating to his absence would be unfair on Prof Thomson and would contravene data protection legislation.
Asked for more specific information, the Trust responded: “Professor Thomson remains in the employment of the Trust but is not currently fulfilling the substantive role of Medical Director.
“It would not be appropriate for us to provide information about the reasons for Professor Thomson’s absence, for the reasons set out above. I am sure you will appreciate that it would be usual practice for an acting arrangement (such as the one that has been put in place) to cover a period of absence, and that this is particularly important to cover a key role such as Trust Medical Director.”
The Trust also confirmed that Dr David Hicks was appointed acting medical director on November 18 on a salary of £132,000.
The appointment was made by the Trust’s remuneration committee but information relating to that decision would only be “reflected” in the annual report, which is published in September, the Trust said.
Prof Thomson became chief medical director in January 2012. His biography on the Trust’s website says he is also currently honorary professor of diabetes at Sheffield Hallam University. He could not be contacted for comment.
Earlier this year, The Yorkshire Post revealed an independent report completed last July had found the Trust’s board to be “fractured”, “ineffective” and “severely fractured”.
It detailed an array of failings at the top of the Trust where financial mismanagement led to senior executive roles being taken over by private consultants at a cost of £1.5m to the public purse.
The Trust plunged into crisis early last year when the regulator Monitor intervened as the scale of its problems became clear. Financial chaos stemmed from the cost of a patient record system which used an IT program not previously deployed in the UK.
The trust had an underlying deficit of £14m by March 2013 and will be around £3.3m in the red for 2013-14.