NHS pension millionaires: Health cuts bite, but bosses’ retirement pots are still gold-plated
NHS fat cats are enjoying pension pots worth more than £2.5million, and some chief executives will retire on annual payouts of up to £110,000.
While final salary pension schemes have all but disappeared in the private sector, it is those employees who will end up footing the health service pension bill through their taxes.
Details of the gold-plated pensions come after evidence of lucrative payments to health service managers, even though the whole system is under severe financial strain.
It emerged last month that the bonuses of senior executives at the Department of Health had doubled in five years. Some received £27,500 on top of their six-figure salaries. And around 1,600 managers of hospitals and health trusts are now earning in excess of £150,000 a year, more than the Prime Minister’s salary of £142,500.
Yet many hospitals are being forced to axe doctors, nurses and midwives to save money, and there are concerns that the cuts are having an effect on patient care. The average NHS worker retires with a pension of just £7,000.
Daniel Poulter, Conservative MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, who is a former hospital doctor, said: ‘It is completely unacceptable that under Labour, senior NHS managers, some of whom were already paid salaries ten times more than hard-working nurses, received annual pay increases of around 7 per cent when front-line NHS staff received only 1.8 per cent.
‘The Government is investing £11.5billion in the NHS over this parliament, but we urgently need to curb this kind of excessive spending on management.’
Figures reveal that the chief executives of the ten strategic health authorities in England have gold-plated final salary pension pots of between £1.2million and just under £2.6million.
The biggest belongs to Sir Neil McKay of the East of England authority, and is currently valued at £2.59million. He is on a salary of between £230,000 and £235,000, and can expect to enjoy an annual retirement sum of between £105,000 and £110,000. Only just behind is Sir Ian Carruthers of the South West strategic health authority, whose pension pot is valued at £2.58million and is expected to pay out between £100,000 and £105,000 when he retires.
The chief executives will contribute about 8.5 per cent of their salaries to their pension and the remainder will come out of the NHS budget.
Private sector workers earn an average of just under £24,800 a year, and the majority have no company pension at all.
Those who are lucky enough to have a pension plan contribute an average of 6.1 per cent of their salary, around £1,500 a year. With employer contributions, to accumulate a pension pot of £2.58million they would need to work for 1,720 years.
MP Daniel Poulter added: ‘It is staggering that an average private sector employee would have to work for so long to accrue the kind of pension pot that top NHS managers are sitting on.’
Strategic health authorities oversee the work of hospitals and primary care trusts in their area. As part of the Government’s controversial health reforms, they are due to be abolished.
But there is currently a great deal of uncertainty over the shake-up, and ministers are re-thinking their plans. In any case, even if these chief executives were to be made redundant they would keep their pension pot for when they retired.
Charlotte Linacre, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘It’s utterly scandalous that NHS bosses can make an absolute fortune and dump the bill on to future generations of taxpayers. ‘Such generous pensions pots signal that care for senior managers has come before care for taxpayers or front-line services.
‘It’s shocking that the value of these bumper pension pots are dramatically more than ordinary taxpayers, who fund their lifestyle, could ever save up themselves.’
Hospital beds go in NHS efficiency drive, leaked memo reveals
England’s biggest hospital trusts are cutting up to 10 per cent of their beds as NHS managers try to meet tough efficiency targets. Some are reducing bed numbers by more than 100, while also cutting headcounts to reduce their pay bills.
The Royal College of Nursing has claimed the moves risk affecting the quality of care – a claim rejected by the hospitals.
The trusts hope to make “efficiency savings” of 4.7 to 7.8 per cent of their budgets, The Daily Telegraph has found. They have accelerated what are termed “cost improvement programmes” because the NHS is under pressure to meet total savings worth £15 to £20 billion by April 2015.
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, responsible for five London hospitals, expects to cut up to 160 beds, or 10 per cent of the total, as part of a £70 million savings drive.
An internal memo to staff reads: “In order to reduce costs, we will be reducing our bed numbers while doing our best to maintain the patient experience.”
Claire Perry, its managing director, told them they had to make “unprecedented cost reductions” due to the “very challenging financial and political climate”.
Neighbouring Barts and the London NHS Trust, which hopes to make savings worth £42 million, expects to lose 100 beds over two years.
In northern England the picture is similar. Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is to lose about 200 beds by next April, or 10 per cent of the total. It is looking to lose 700 posts by this October through ‘vacancy control’ – not replacing most staff who leave.
Central Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which has five hospitals, will lose 80 beds as part of a £42 million saving programme on a £720 million budget (5.8 per cent).
If the situation is repeated across all of England’s 171 acute trusts, thousands of hospital beds will go. As of April 2010, there were 100,867 acute hospital beds, according to the Department of Health.
Most of the savings will be made by reducing headcounts, mainly through limiting the use of agency and locum staff, rather than through redundancies.
Peter Carter, general secretary and chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “If some of these major teaching hospitals are saying that they can do without 150 or 200 beds, does that mean that they have been running very inefficiently in the past? I don’t believe that.
“I don’t believe that Barts, Imperial and others have been that inefficient that they can strip out that many beds and that many staff without affecting workload, efficiency and quality of care.”
The long term trend is for less acute beds – the number has dropped by 8,000 since 1997 – with better ways of working enabling clinicians to reduce overnight stays.
But Mr Carter warned that taking out too many beds, too quickly, would be counterproductive.
He said: “We all want to see people discharged as quickly as possible, but if you force the pace, you are going to have more and more people coming back in again.”
Staff would feel the effects of cuts keenly, he said, even though redundancies were being kept to a minimum.
Christina McAnea, head of health at Unison, said: “Cutting the number of staff will inevitably impact on patient care and cause greater stress for the staff left in post.”
She added: “”The myth that the NHS is protected from cuts needs to be exposed.”
Simon Burns, the Health Minister, said: “There is no excuse to cut back on services that patients depend on.”
However, he went on: “It is for local Trusts to determine their specific needs on workforce and beds. We have made it clear that efficiency savings must not have an adverse impact on the quality and safety of patient care. ”
“Reducing overnight bed numbers is consistent with medical advances which allow more people to be treated as day cases, when clinically appropriate.”
Britain returning to its old measurements
About time too. You don’t make decimal point mistakes with Imperial measurements
Strawberries will be sold by the pound on supermarket shelves again today as the clock is turned back for shoppers who prefer old-style weights. Asda is to sell 1lb punnets of strawberries for the first time in 16 years to gauge shopper demand ahead of a potential roll-out of imperial measurements to other fruit and vegetables. The punnets will display both imperial and metric weight labels.
The move follows consumer research which found that 70 per cent of the supermarket’s shoppers were confused by metric and would prefer products to be labelled in pounds.
Around 20 per cent said they took longer to shop because they spent time translating metric into imperial.
‘No one wants to order a litre of beer in the pub, so why do we have to buy 453.39g of strawberries?’ Asda strawberry buyer Andy Jackson told trade magazine The Grocer.
Consumers had the right to see both types of measurement on their groceries, according to John Gardner, director at the British Weights and Measures Association. All packs have to display metric weights, but imperial can be used as a ‘supplementary indication’, since an EU law change in 2007.
Asda said it may extend pounds and ounces to other fruit and vegetable if the trial was successful.
British School reprimands seven-year-old boys for playing ‘army game’
A primary school has been condemned by parents for disciplining two seven-year-old boys after teachers ruled playing army games amounted to “threatening behaviour”. Staff at Nathaniel Newton Infant School in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, reprimanded the two boys after they were seen making pistol shapes with their fingers.
Teachers broke up the imaginary classroom shoot-out and contacted the youngsters’ parents, warning them that such behaviour would not be tolerated. The school, which caters for around 180 pupils aged four to seven, said the gun gestures were “unacceptable” and were not permitted at school.
However, parents have described the reaction as “outrageous”, while family groups warned that “wrapping children in cotton wool” damages their upbringing.
Defending its policy, a spokesman for Nathaniel Newton Infant School said: “Far from stopping children from playing we actively encourage it. “However a judgement call has to be made if playing turns into unacceptable behaviour. “The issue here was about hand gestures being made in the shape of a gun towards members of staff which is understandably unacceptable, particularly in the classroom.”
A father of one of the boys who was disciplined said: “It’s ridiculous. How can you tell a seven-year-old boy he cannot play guns and armies with his friends.
“Another parent was called for the same reason. We were told to reprimand our son for this and to tell him he cannot play ‘guns’ anymore. “The teacher said the boys should be reprimanded for threatening behaviour which would not be tolerated at the school.”
The community primary school was rated as “good” overall in an Ofsted report published last year, but warned that children oughtt to have greater freedom to play. The inspectors praised pupils’ behaviour as “outstanding”, telling them in a letter: “Your behaviour is excellent and you work very well together.” They added that they had asked teachers to “make it easier for the children to play and learn outside”.
Parenting groups condemned the school’s reaction to the children’s game of soldiers, warning that it risked causing a rift between the school and parents.
Margaret Morrissey, founder of the family lobby group Parents Outloud, said: “It is madness to try to indoctrinate children aged seven with political correctness in this way. “Children have played cowboys and Indians like this for generations and it does them absolutely no harm whatsoever. “In my experience, it is the children who are banned from playing innocent games like this who then go on to develop a fascination with guns.
“We cannot wrap our children in cotton wool. Allowing them to take a few risks and play games outside is an essential part of growing up. “By reprimanding these youngsters at this age, the school makes a very big issue out of something trivial, which will divide the parents and teachers.”
The case follows a string of similar incidents in which children’s playtime activities have been curbed by overzealous staff over health and safety concerns. Earlier this year, a Liverpool school banned youngsters from playing football with anything other than sponge balls amid fears youngsters might get hurt.
Research last month also found that one in six British schools had banned conkers over concerns of pupils being hit in the face. Other traditional playground games such as British bulldog and even leapfrog are prohibited at 30 per cent 10 per cent of schools respectively, a study by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers union found.
Marcus Jones, the Tory MP for Nuneaton, said: “It is quite apparent that the seven-year-olds would be playing an innocent game. “This is political correctness gone mad. When I was that age that type of game was common place and I don’t remember anyone coming to any harm from it.”
Acupuncture has significant impact on mystery illnesses
The good old placebo affect working on what are probably in the main depressive illnesses. The drama of acupuncture should generate strong suggestion effects
Acupuncture has a ‘significant’ effect on patients with mystery symptoms – and could be added to the list of available treatments for undiagnosed health problems, research shows. One in five patients has symptoms which are undiagnosed by medicine, and the cost of treating them is twice that as of a diagnosed patient.
A team from the University of Exeter examined 80 patients, and investigated the benefit of acupuncture being added to their usual care.
After the first trial of its type, researchers say those who underwent acupuncture showed ‘a significant and sustained benefit’ and add that the treatment could be safely added to the list of possible therapies.
Of the 80 patients, nearly 60 per cent reported musculoskeletal problems, and in the three months prior to the experiment had accounted for treatment including 44 hospital visits, 52 hospital clinic visits, 106 outpatient clinic visits and 75 visits to non NHS workers.
Half were treated with acupuncture for 26 weeks with the other acting as a control group, reports the British Journal of General Practice.
Those treated with acupuncture had a ‘significantly improved’ overall wellbeing, reporting further benefits such as new self-awareness about what caused stress in their lives and better diet and exercise. At 26 weeks the control group also underwent acupuncture – and reported the same benefits.
Comments from patients included “the energy is the main thing I have noticed. You know, yeah, it’s marvellous!” and “Where I was going out and cutting my grass, now I’m going out and cutting my neighbour’s after because he’s elderly”;
Dr Charlotte Paterson, who managed the trial, said: “Our research indicates that the addition of up to 12 five-element acupuncture consultations to the usual care experienced by the patients in the trial was feasible and acceptable and resulted in improved overall well-being that was sustained for up to a year.
“This is the first trial to investigate the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment to those with unexplained symptoms, and the next development will be to carry out a cost-effectiveness study with a longer follow-up period.
“While further studies are required, this particular study suggests that GPs may recommend a series of five-element acupuncture consultations to patients with unexplained symptoms as a safe and potentially effective intervention.”
She added: “Such intervention could not only result in potential resource savings for the NHS, but would also improve the quality of life for a group of patients for whom traditional biomedicine has little in the way of effective diagnosis and treatment.”
Happiness comes with a 75th birthday card
There seems in fact to be a mellowing from the 60s on, possibly due to decreasing output of drive hormones such as testosterone
People become less lonely and more happy with their local neighbourhood as they grow older, government research has suggested. The findings challenge the stereotype of old age as a time of isolation and unhappiness. The survey showed that feelings of social isolation were more common among the young.
Based on a survey of 1,867 adults, the report looked at expectations and experiences of later life in Britain. Seventy-two per cent of the over-75s questioned said they never felt lonely, compared with 51 per cent of the 16 to 34 year-olds.
Ten per cent of people aged between 65 and 74 said they were sometimes or often lonely.
Among those aged 50 to 59, the figure was 21 per cent. Researchers suggested that “the peak age for feeling isolated is between 50 and 59, which may relate to children leaving home and, for some people, early retirement”.
Seventy-two per cent of people aged 75 and over also believed their neighbourhood was “definitely” a good place to grow old. Only 58 per cent of those in their 50s gave such a positive answer, and among the youngest, the figure was 36 per cent.
Older people were also more optimistic about their own life expectancy then the young. On average, men over 65 estimated that they would live to be 87, and women in the same group forecast 88. For those aged 16 to 34, average estimates were 79 for men and 80 for women.
As life expectancy rises, ministers are trying to change rules and attitudes around ageing to encourage people to stay economically active for longer.
The survey for the Department for Work and Pensions confirmed that the average Briton believed “old age” started at around 59, earlier than in most European countries.
Wind farms: Britain is ‘running out of wind’
Despite the freak gales that battered parts of the country last week, climate experts are warning that many of Britain’s wind farms may soon run out of puff.
According to government figures, 13 of the past 16 months have been calmer than normal – while 2010 was the “stillest” year of the past decade.
Meteorologists believe that changes to the Atlantic jet stream could alter the pattern of winds over the next 40 years and leave much of the nation’s growing army of power-generating turbines becalmed.
The Coalition has drawn up plans to open more wind farms in an effort to meet Britain’s European Union target of providing 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.More than 3,600 turbines are expected to be installed in offshore wind farms over the next nine years.
But statistics suggest that the winds that sweep across the British Isles may be weakening. Last year, wind speeds over the UK averaged 7.8 knots (8.9mph), a fall of 20 per cent on 2008, and well below the mean for this century, which stands at 9.1 knots (10.5mph).
Usually Britain has warm, wet and windy winters, thanks to Caribbean air carried here by the Atlantic jet stream, a fast-flowing current of air.
But the last two winters have featured exceptionally low temperatures and were remarkably still when they should have been the windiest seasons of all, as high pressure diverted the jet stream from its normal position.
Meteorologists have found that the position of the jet stream has been influenced by the lower levels of activity on the Sun. This decline in sun-spot activity is expected to continue for the next 40 years, with potentially serious consequences for the viability of wind farms.
Professor Mike Lockwood, from Reading University, said: “Changes in the jet stream will change the pattern of winds that we get in the UK. That, of course, is a problem for wind power.
“You have to site your wind farms in the right place and if you site your wind farm in the wrong place then that will be a problem.”
Dr David Brayshaw, also from Reading’s Department of Meteorology, added: “If wind speed lowers, we can expect to generate less electricity from turbines – that’s a no-brainer.”
The gales that swept Scotland last week, with gusts of over 80mph, were the worst in the month of May for almost 50 years. The power to almost 30,000 homes was temporarily cut and two people died.
Prof Lockwood said the recent spell of exceptionally dry weather in the south and wet conditions in the northern half of the UK was influenced by the position of the jet stream.
“The jet stream is sitting over the north of England so we are getting very dry weather to the south of the jet stream,” he said.
The Atlantic jet stream brings warm, wet weather to the UK and Europe from the south-west. If it is “blocked” as a result of changes in solar activity, cold air flows across Britain from the east.
One such period of prolonged blocking of the jet stream is thought to have occurred between 1645 and 1715, when Britain experienced a mini ice age, yet also spells of hot, dry summer weather.
Prof Lockwood said solar activity was especially low during this period, adding that current levels of sun-spot activity were continuing to decline. “We reached a high point of solar activity in 1985,” he said.
“Since then, it has been declining. We are now halfway back to the levels seen during the Maunder Minimum. The probability is that that decline will continue for the next 40 years.”
“Racist” to mention someone’s skin color?
“Supermodel Naomi Campbell has threatened to take legal action over a Cadbury advertisement that allegedly uses her name to promote a chocolate bar.
According to reports, the catwalk beauty accuses the chocolate giant of racism after an advertising campaign that not only uses her name without permission – but also “compares her to chocolate”.
The ad for Cadbury’s Bliss shows a chocolate bar surrounded by diamonds with the slogan, “Move over Naomi, there’s a new diva in town”.
Campbell alleges the tag line is a jibe aimed at her and claims she is deeply offended at being compared to a chocolate bar.
The supermodel’s mother, Valerie Morris, is said to have echoed her daughter’s concern, “I’m deeply upset by this racist advert. Do these people think they can insult black people and we just take it? This is the 21st century, not the 1950s. Shame on Cadbury”