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NHS reforms push redundancy bill to £90m

Redundancy payments in the National Health Service have risen 10-fold to more than £90m since the Government's changes to the service were introduced, figures released by ministers have shown.

Margaret Beckett, the Labour spokeswoman on health, yesterday said that the disclosure was "astonishing''. Her office said the number of bureaucrats in the NHS had risen, and Mrs Beckett would be pursuing the issue to find out how the money had been spent. Labour believes the sums, which may rise to more than £100m next year, would have been better spent on patient care.

"Millions of pounds have been spent in consequence of the Government's policy decision to change the NHS. It appears that we don't even know where and why this money has been spent,'' she said.

Figures released by Gerald Malone, the Health Minister, show payments rose from £9,734,000 in 1989-90 to £50,782,000 in 1992-93. The provisional figure for 1993-94 is £93,764,000 The largest increase is in NHS trusts, which run hospitals. Their redundancy payments have risen from £3,675,000 in 1991-92, their first year of operation, to £49,122,000 for the past year.

Figures given by Mr Malone show also that the trusts are paying out large sums to individuals in redundancy. The biggest individual pay-outs were £77,715 for a member of staff at Queen's Medical Centre Nottingham University NHS Trust and £75,000 by the Hammersmith Hospitals Trust, but many payments of more than £30,000 have been made by trusts across the country and these figures only cover the period from April this year.

The decision to close down old Victorian psychiatric units as part of the care in the community programme also resulted in a large rise in redundancies, Mr Malone said. A spokesman for the Department of Health said the increase in payments was "primarilyas a result of the reforms, the management restructuring and long-stay psychiatric hospitals being closed".

"The impression has been given that more managers are employed now, but the Government has been saying that the management figures are not growing dramatically. These redundancy payments show that many have been paid off,'' he said. The regional health authorities are to be abolished under legislation introduced in the Commons before the Christmas break, which will increase redundancy payments to senior executives. The Bill also allows the merger of more districts with family health authorities, which may add to the redundancy costs.