NHS bosses' million pound pension pots are 'obscene'

Andrew McCormick, former permanent secretary at the Department of Health
Seanín Graham

A MIDWIFERY chief has branded the £50 million pension pots shared by the north's top 75 NHS managers as "obscene" - and questioned how the packages are accumulated.

Figures collated by the Irish News show that one health trust official has an estimated retirement package of a staggering £2m at a time when the majority of healthcare workers have failed to secure a one per cent pay increase for this financial year.

Breedagh Hughes, director of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) raised concerns that the retirement packages of chief executives and service directors were "disproportionately bigger" than those of senior midwives - and said the details of these contracts should be "exposed".

The RCM took the unprecedented step earlier this year of strike action - the first in its 134-year history - over pay with Northern Ireland being the only NHS region where a rise was not given to public sector health workers.

"If you have a chief executive earning more than £100,000 and a midwifery sister earning £50,000, in theory they should be getting twice the pension of the sister. But this is not the case when some chief exeuctives have £1m pension pots. It is obscene," Ms Hughes said.

"I know that doctors and dentists have separately negotiated contracts. We need to determine if the pension schemes of senior executives in the Northern Ireland health service is made up in the same way as lesser mortals working at the coalface. Do these executives also individually negotiated contracts?"

According the the latest health service accounts for 2014/15, the retirement packages of the most senior 75 managers are now costing the taxpayer more than £51m.

The highest earner is the Northern health trust’s medical director, Dr Ken Lowry, who will retire on an annual pension of £85,000 to £90,000 a year from a pot valued at a staggering £2 million.

In addition, Dr Lowry will receive a tax-free lump sum of £260,000 as a reward for his years of service.

He is followed by the Northern trust's chief executive, Dr Tony Stevens, who is set to receive a 'golden handshake' of £230,000 and an annual pension of £80,000 from an estimated £1.7m pot.

Dr Stevens was appointed to the top post in the troubled organisation in May last year after working at the Belfast health trust for seven years as medical director.

Joe McCusker, regional organiser of the trade union Unison, said the figures raised questions about the number of senior directors employed across the north's health sector - eight years after an overhaul of the service was introduced to reduce top-tier bureaucracy.

The release of the figures also comes during one of the worst waiting lists crisis to engulf the health service, with almost 400,000 patients facing delays - and some people experiencing two-year waits to see a hospital consultant for the first time.

"I am totally incredulous as to how more than £50m in government-funded pension pots can be paid to the top brass in the NHS when a recent report shows the average public sector pension is around £4,000 a year," Mr McCusker said.

"In terms of where we are in the NHS with our waiting lists crisis we can’t afford to take so much out of the health service with pensions. I think we need to carry out a review of the cost implications of pensions to senior administrators."

Men account for the vast majority of the high-earners, based on information from the organisations' recently published annual reports.

Dr Michael McBride, the north’s chief medical officer and interim chief executive of the Belfast trust, is among those benefitting from an increase in his pension pot, which officials say now stands at £1.3m.

Following the mass walkout earlier this year by public sector workers, a rise was given in Many for 2014/15 but it was 'non-consolidated' - meaning that it does not form part of their pensions. It rejected by the trade unions. No pay agreement has been agreed for 2015/16.

Garret Martin, deputy director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said the "enormity" of the latest multi-million pound retirement packages will demoralise their members.


Dr Ken Lowry - medical director of the Northern Health Trust

Pension: £85,000 - £90,000 a year

Lump sum: £260,000

Pension pot: £2m

Dr Tony Stevens - chief executive of the Northern Health Trust

Pension: £80,000 a year

Lump sum: £230,000

Pension pot: £1.7m

Mr Alan McKinney - acting medical director, Western Health Trust (retired)

Combined pension and lump sum: £281,000 (no breakdown was available)

Pension pot: £1.6m

Dr Charlie Martyn - medical director of South Eastern Health Trust

Pension: £60,000 - £65,000 a year

Lump sum: £185,000 - £190,000

Pension pot: £1.4m

Dr John Simpson - medical director of Southern Health Trust

Pension: £60,000 - £65,000 a year

Lump sum: £185,000 - £190,000

Pension pot: £1.4m

Dr Michael McBride - Chief Medical Officer

Pension: £60,000-£65,000 a year

Lump sum: £190 - £195,000

Pension pot: £1.3m

Dr David McManus - medical director, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service

Pension: £65,000 - £70,000

Lump sum: £195,000 - £200,000

Pension pot: £1.3m

Elaine Way - Chief Executive of Western Health Trust

Pension: £57,552 a year

Lump sum: £172,656

Pension pot: £1.3m

Andrew McCormick - former permanent secretary at Department of Health

Pension: £60,000 - £65,000 a year

Lump sum: £105,000 - £110,000

Pension pot: £1.2m

Larry O'Neill - finance director of Northern Health Trust

Pension: £45,000 - £50,000

Lump sum: £140,000 - £150,000

Pension pot: £1.1m

Joe Lusby - deputy chief executive of Western Health Trust

Pension: £47,360 a year

Lump sum: £142,080

Pension pot: £1m


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