NHS finance chief sacked over ‘irregularities’ at hospital

Janet Ashby
Janet Ashby
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A hospital finance director has been sacked for gross misconduct over financial irregularities at a Yorkshire NHS trust.

Janet Ashby faced an inquiry after it emerged Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust had plunged millions of pounds into the red only weeks after she predicted it would achieve a small surplus.

Bosses have confirmed she has been dismissed from her £100,000-a-year post as director of finance and a report sent to her professional body over her conduct.

It is estimated forensic investigations into what went wrong have cost taxpayers £1.3m after concerns were initially raised by a whistleblower.

Checks are believed to have uncovered evidence one-off income was misrepresented in accounts in a practice dating back beyond 2013-14, while predicted cost savings were over-stated at £6m when they amounted to only £2m.

Major changes in the way the trust is run have been ordered to ensure senior executives have detailed information about its finances, which are likely to be nearly £12m in the red by the end of March. It is is not due to return to the black until 2017.

Diane Wake, chief executive at the trust since last autumn, said disciplinary action had been launched after evidence of financial irregularities had come to light.

She said: “This process was robust and comprehensive and concluded with Mrs Ashby’s formal dismissal for gross misconduct, with a report on the outcomes being provided to her professional body.”

She added: “This has been a very difficult year for Barnsley Hospital following the misstating of our accounts which came to light at the end of March.

“Considering we began the financial year facing a deficit of circa £20m, to be able to look at closing the year with a £11.9m deficit is a testament to the sheer determination of our staff to drive and be part of the hospital’s recovery.

“As well as delivering to our financial and operational targets, we have made significant changes to our clinical and executive leadership which is having a big impact on the organisation.

“With senior clinicians now running their own clinical business units and an almost wholly new executive team supporting their growth and development, I am confident that the hospital is both facing forward and facing a bright future.”

Mrs Ashby had originally joined the trust in 2008 to “improve and develop” its financial systems, becoming deputy finance chief in 2010 and finance director in 2012. She has a 25-year background in financial management including roles at the Virgin Group, Arcadia Group and KPMG.

As part of NHS pledge day in February, only weeks before the irregularities emerged, she was recorded in a video saying: “This year I have pledged to put patient safety and care at the centre of any financial decision I have to make.”