Exclusive: NHS chief gets £120,000 job after £260,000 trust pay-off

Ed MilibandEd Miliband
Ed Miliband
A SENIOR NHS manager who received a £260,000 pay-off after leaving a crisis-hit hospital earlier this year has been re-employed just six months later in a £120,000 a year post at a neighbouring Yorkshire NHS trust.

Matthew Lowry, who was part of the senior management team at Rotherham hospital as it slipped into financial chaos, is now the new finance director for the NHS trust covering Doncaster Royal Infirmary and Bassetlaw Hospital in Worksop.

Last night hospital chiefs revealed Mr Lowry had given up a portion of his salary after being hired so soon after his departure in March from the troubled Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust.

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But his is the latest example of bosses receiving lucrative pay-offs only to be re-employed by the NHS following revelations that a married couple received almost £1m in pay-offs from defunct primary care trusts in the north east in March and then took up senior interim roles running hospitals in Leeds three months later.

Labour leader Ed Miliband, MP for Doncaster North, has angrily confronted Prime Minister David Cameron over the issue and last night again criticised the culture of senior managers receiving pay-offs before quickly returning to well-paid jobs, warning the government had exacerbated the problem with its “botched” reorganisation of the NHS.

He said: “This is a problem across the country. As the Prime Minister is giving P45s to nurses there are managers getting six-figure pay offs and then being rehired. The blame lies with David Cameron. It his botched reorganisation which wasted £3bn and the loss of 6,000 nurses which has led to an A&E crisis across the NHS.”

Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust defended the appointment and said Mr Lowry, who initially took on the finance director role on an interim basis in September, had agreed to forgo £25,000 of his salary for his first year.

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A spokeswoman said: “With respect to his position here, it has been agreed he will waive a proportion of the usual Director of Finance salary for his first year in the post in recognition of the fact that he received redundancy from the NHS earlier in 2013. 

“During Matthew’s time as Director of Finance at Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, it performed very well financially and reinvested surpluses to enhance patient care. He then moved on to become Chief Operating Officer for the organisation. When he left, he received his contractual entitlements and no additional payments, and at the time he had no way of knowing when or if he would return to the NHS again.

“As well as being a very capable and experienced finance director, Matthew’s time as chief operating officer means he also understands first-hand the needs and issues facing clinical and other essential hospital services. 

“Matthew’s previous redundancy does not alter the clear view from the extensive recruitment process that he is the best candidate for this critical role.”

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The Government is introducing a policy aimed at requiring repayment of some or even all of a redundancy payment if a manager returns to work in the NHS within a year - though the Department of Health (DoH) did not respond when asked whether the new policy had actually taken effect.

But Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said it had reached a separate agreement with Mr Lowry to implement the pay cut of £25,000 for his first year as a permanent member of staff, which begins in December. He was being paid at the full rate of £120,000 a year when he initially took the post on an interim basis in September.

A DoH statement said: “The Health Secretary has been clear that very senior managers’ pay in the NHS needs more restraint. We have set out proposals to cap redundancy pay-outs for senior managers and claw back all or part of the payment if they return to work for the NHS within a year of being made redundant.

“These redundancy costs should be measured against the fact that we are freeing up £5.5bn efficiency savings this Parliament, as well as £1.5bn every year after that. Meanwhile there are now nearly 8,000 fewer managers and over 4,000 more clinicians than there were in 2010.

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“Taxpayers want to reduce bureaucracy and increase frontline care staff.”

Mr Lowry was interim chief executive at Rotherham when he left. The top job was taken over by one of a team of private consultants brought in to rescue a desperate financial situation.

It had previously emerged that Karen Straughair and husband Chris Reed were parachuted into temporary roles as recovery director and interim chief executive at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust after receiving pay-offs of £605,000 and £345,000, respectively.