Clinical staff at two scandal-hit NHS hospitals have been handed millions in performance bonus payments, despite delivering poor care leading to the deaths of hundreds of patients.
Freedom of Information requests submitted by the Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) uncovered more than £7 million worth of spending on “Clinical Excellence Awards” at the Mid-Staffordshire and University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay (UHMB) NHS Trusts.
The awards, designed to motivate staff, are the NHS’s equivalent of performance bonuses and can add anywhere between £3,000 and £75,000 to a doctor’s annual salary, effectively becoming a permanent addition to their paycheck. Although they come up for renewal every five years, they are rarely rescinded.
Inquiries by the TPA revealed that, between 2005 and 2012, 259 Clinical Excellence Awards were handed out to staff at Morecambe Bay, at a total cost of just under £4 million. The true figure is likely to be upwards of that mark as incomplete information was handed over for the 2005-2008 period.
And at Mid-Staffs, 170 Clinical Excellence Awards were handed out between 2006 and 2010. Officials at Mid-Staffs refused to reveal the value of the bonuses awarded, but at the national average value of £18,860, the awards would cost taxpayers £3.2 million. The true cost could be much higher.
According to the NHS, the awards are designed to “Recognise and reward NHS consultants and academic GPs who perform ‘over and above’ the standard expected of their role. Awards are given for quality and excellence, acknowledging exceptional personal contributions.”
When first introduced in 2003, then Health Secretary Alan Milburn said that the awards “would recognise and reward those NHS consultants who do most for NHS patients.”
But in Mid-Staffs and Morecambe Bay, the patient experience was far from being caring, and was only exceptional in the sense of being exceptionally bad.
Both hospitals were mired in scandal even as these generous awards were being dished out. In Morecambe Bay, at least one mother and eleven babies lost their lives between 2004 and 2011 thanks to the failings of the hospital. The Kirkup report into the scandal uncovered “a series of failures at almost every level.”
While unnecessary loss of life is always tragic, Mid-Staffs took scandal to a whole other level. Between 400 and 1200 patients died at the hospital between 2005 and 2008 thanks to poor care, including leaving elderly patients without any food or drink and lying in their own waste. Mis-diagnosis and malpractice lead to infertility, disability and frequently death amongst young and old patients. The first Francis enquiry in 2010 found “incompetence, negligence, indifference and dangerous practice” to be rife.
Jonathan Isaby, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s shocking that as patients were being subjected to inhumane treatment at the hands of some staff, these Trusts saw fit to dish out huge bonuses for supposed excellence.
“Public inquiries have been scathing of the scandalous care at these hospitals, and the awarding of cash rewards for staff shows that priorities were seriously mixed up. The government must take a very close look at this scheme and ensure that taxpayers’ money never gets wasted on bonuses for staff while patients are suffering.”
The Mid-Staffs Trust has since been broken up, whilst Morecambe Bay declined to comment. NHS England told the Telegraph that the granting of Awards was a matter for individual Trusts.