Health executives’ million pound pension pots amidst health care crisis

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WITH a public meeting due to take place in Enniskillen tonight (Thursday) on the Western Trust’s controversial plans to save £12.5 million from its 2017/18 budget, it has emerged this week that three of the local health body’s current or former executives each have ‘pension pots’ worth £1 million or over.

According to an investigation published in the Irish News on Monday, ‘pension pots’ worth £51 million have been amassed by health service bosses in Northern Ireland.

Three of the executives who were identified by the daily newspaper as top beneficiaries either work for the Western Trust or have recently retired from the organisation.

The figures published on Monday show that former Western Trust chief executive, Elaine Way, who retired this summer, left her post with a golden handshake of £172,656 and will receive an annual pension of £57,552 (based on the 2014-15 annual accounts).

She is set to accrue a ‘pension pot’ of £1.3 million.

Alan Corry Finn, who retired as the Western Trust’s director of primary care and older people’s services this year, is reported to have a retirement fund worth £1.1 million, while current medical director Dr. Dermot Hughes’s ‘pension pot’ is estimated at £1.3 million.

A spokesperson for the Western Trust said this week that the HSC Pension Scheme was available to all health and social care staff between the ages of 16 and 75.

“Pension benefits are built up over the amount of years the individual contributes to the Pension Scheme; employee contributions vary from five per cent to 14.5 per cent, dependent on earnings. The percentage contribution rate made by the employer is the same for all employees,” the spokesperson added.

The ‘pension pot’ figures came to light in the same week as the Western Trust has held a series of public meetings on its plan to save £12.5 million from its 2017-18 budget.

The last meeting is due to be held in the Lakeland Forum in Enniskillen tonight, from 7pm to 9pm.

In August this year, all five of Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care Trusts were tasked by the Department of Health to develop draft plans to deliver their share of a total of £70 million of savings in 2017/18.

In the document published by the Western Trust, which is subject to a six-week consultation period, a total of 12 proposals have been put forward in order to reach its own set target of £12.5 million savings in the next financial year.

Four of these have been assessed as having a ‘low impact’ on services, while the remaining eight are classed as being ‘major and/or controversial’.

There has been much opposition voiced locally to the proposal to ‘reform’ the neonatal service at the South West Acute Hospital to a ‘transitional care based service’, provided within the Paediatric Ward with a Specialist Nurse.

If approved, the Savings Plan could also result in a ‘rationalisation and consolidation’ of day-care services affecting Dromore and Rosslea, the loss of eight to 10 nursing homes with an estimated 275 domiciliary care packages not being put in place and a reduction in routine elective surgery.

One of the key issues within the proposals is that the Trust is suggesting a reduction in the reliance of high cost and non-NHS locums, nursing agency and agency social work staff, upon which SWAH in particular has been relying heavily on to maintain safe service delivery.

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA, Rosemary Barton, has said that many of the proposed cuts were “unjust and unjustifiable”.

The UUP representative said: “The brutal reality of some of these cuts is that they will have a detrimental and dangerous impact on the quality and safety of care given to some patients.”

The consultation period will run until Thursday, October 5.

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