The sum was condemned yesterday as 'a waste' by David Blunkett, Labour's health spokesman, who said such 'vital health service spending should have gone on direct patient care, not on paying off those who were previously working in the service'.
The figure of pounds 96.5m comes from a Commons written answer by Dr Brian Mawhinney, Minister of Health, showing that redundancy payments rose from pounds 11.7m in 1990-91 to pounds 32m the following year and then by a further pounds 20m to pounds 52.5m in the year ended last April.
The dramatic rises are chiefly due to a combination of 'management restructuring' in the NHS, according to Dr Mawhinney, and to the closure of long-stay psychiatric hospitals as part of the care in the community programme.
The sums come, however, as thousands of managers are due to lose their jobs in the merger and abolition of regional health authorities and the revamping of the NHS management executive, and as the British Medical Association has just agreed a redundancy framework for hospital consultants in London, many of whom will also lose their jobs in the large-scale hospital mergers and closures now under way.
Mr Blunkett said yesterday the cash already paid out covered 'a range of staff including nurses and consultants who have been declared 'surplus to requirements'.
'This is at a time when waiting lists have risen by 100,000 since the general election.'
Under the Conservatives, he said, the country was losing all ways. 'We pay more in tax, we get less service, and we pay those working in the NHS to stay at home rather than to do the job they want to do.'