Confidential Settlements

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 30th March 2010.

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Photo of David Davies David Davies Conservative, Monmouth 2:30 pm, 30th March 2010

How much the NHS spent on confidential settlements with members of NHS staff in the last three years.

Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health

It is not possible to separate out confidential severance payments within the NHS account. However, NHS expenditure in England, excluding foundation trusts, in the relevant category-ex gratia payments, other-was £4 million in 2006-07, £8.2 million in 2007-08 and £5.4 million in 2008-09.

Photo of David Davies David Davies Conservative, Monmouth

I thank the Minister for that helpful answer. I have recently been dealing with the case of a Dr. Lucy Dawson in my constituency, who was offered a confidentiality payment to keep quiet about a complicated matter. That worries me. Does it worry the Minister that, apparently, millions of pounds are being handed over to people simply to persuade them to keep their mouths shut when they see wrongdoing in the NHS? Will she commit to doing something about it?

Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Minister of State (Public Health), Department of Health

That is not a culture in the NHS that I recognise. It is important to say that those payments relate to all staff groups-for example, a termination payment made out of compassion, perhaps to a seriously ill nurse, could be included in the figures. Another example would be where a payment represents best value for money-for example, if legal advice suggests that a case would be lost at an employment tribunal. Any proposed payment is not permitted to reward failure, dishonesty or inappropriate behaviour. Indeed, such a payment would not be approved. It is worth saying that the Audit Commission also acknowledged extremely rigorous processes that we have in the NHS for approving such payments.