£811-a-day bill for hospital boss
A HOSPITAL in the grip of a deepening cash crisis is to pay its new stand-in chief executive more than £800 a day.
The cost has been approved by the University Hospital of North Staffordshire which has run up debts of around £27 million.
Acting chief executive Jim Birrell's salary is well-above the wage of highly-respected Julia Bridgewater, who has resigned and leaves the post this week.
He has previously been named as one of the highest-earning managers in the NHS and was reported to have bagged £1,250 a day of public money at a job he left last year. The hospital has confirmed his cost works out at £211,000 a year or £811 a day for 260 working days.
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But campaigners suspect more senior health bodies may also be adding to the figure and have challenged officials to reveal his total earnings.
Ian Syme, co-ordinator of pressure group North Staffordshire Healthwatch, said: "I cannot see such a big earner taking a huge pay cut to come here for £211,000. That may be his cost to the trust but doesn't mean part of salary is not coming from a higher body such as the Strategic Health Authority or the Department of Health.
"As it is all NHS money, the public should be told his total salary. It is an obscene amount which is adding to the debt."
In contrast, the latest accounts reveal Mrs Bridgewater was on £170,000 annually, although extras such as national insurance contributions take the final figure up to £205,000.
Now leaders representing the 7,000 hospital staff have raised concerns jobs and services could be put at risk.
John Davis, a public representative on the hospital council, said: "Surely a trust so financially challenged could have found an interim chief at a more reasonable cost.
"They could have asked someone already at the trust to step in to bridge the gap.
"After all, Mrs Bridgewater rose to chief executive and did an excellent job."
Julia Ellis, the Royal College of Midwives' leader at the hospital and chairman of the staff side, said: "We are interested in getting to the bottom of all this."
Mr Birrell, pictured below, who takes up his new job a week today, was previously interim head of a hospital group in Leicester.
NHS management house magazine the Health Service Journal listed him as the fifth most expensive interim executive in the NHS last July. According to the publication, he was paid £1,250 a day during a stint as director of delivery at the Birmingham and Solihull Primary Care Trusts between October 2011 and last March.
A hospital spokesman said: "The total cost of employing the current chief executive (salary plus employer 'on costs' like national insurance contributions) is £205,000. The annualised cost to the trust of employing the new interim chief executive will be £211,000."