NHS managers union Managers in Partnership attacks government stance on health service accountability

An NHS managers’ union has slammed the government’s approach to accountability within the health service, and accused the NHS chief executive of being out of touch.

Managers in Partnership (MiP), which represents more than 5,000 senior officials and chief executives in the NHS, accused the Department of Health of “tinkering” with the problem of who is responsible for what in the NHS.

The union said the public would continue to have “the wool pulled over its eyes” as the system was more about preventing problems from coming to light than solving them.

The attack came after health secretary Alan Johnson ordered that severance payments to Rose Gibb, former chief executive of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, should not be paid.

Gibb resigned days before a Healthcare Commission report revealed critical failures at the trust’s hospitals which led to as many as 90 deaths from a superbug outbreak.

NHS chief executive David Nicholson then sent a letter to NHS organisations about the process for making pay-offs to senior managers. His instructions included a requirement to discuss the issue with strategic health authorities and the Treasury.

Jon Restell, MiP chief executive, said: “Intentionally or not, the department is missing the much bigger point. Bundling managers out of hospitals, shoving cheques in their hands and telling them to keep their mouths shut is not a credible system of public accountability.

“It is of course important that hospitals act properly when paying severance to senior executives. But the more important question from the public is: why are the payments being made in the first place?”

In response to Nicholson’s suggestion in the letter that the need for a trust to terminate the contract of a senior executive would be very rare, Restell said: “David needs new and better information about what’s going on in his health service.”

Restell said his members wanted action on three issues:

  • A fair and open contractual disciplinary procedure

  • Ditch gagging clauses so the public can hear from top managers when things go wrong

  • Fix accountability so managers are facing outwards to local people, the media and regulators.

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