Mark Francois MP to NHS Bureaucrat: “Pay the £200k Back!”

A South Essex MP has reacted furiously to the news, revealed in last week’s Echo, that NHS senior bureaucrat Ian Stidson is to be given a £200,000 pay off for effectively switching jobs, due to yet another local NHS reorganisation.

Mr Stidson, the ‘Accountable Officer’ (akin to a Chief Executive), led the Southend Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which funds frontline healthcare in South Essex, until he was handed the package – about £150,000 for redundancy and £50,000 in lieu of notice, prior to then taking up a similar role as ‘Accountable Officer’ with Thurrock CCG. Both these CCGs, along with Basildon and Brentwood CCG, Castlepoint and Rochford CCG and Mid-Essex CCG, are now actively contemplating merging into one combined larger CCG, covering the whole of South Essex, in the course of next year.

Commenting on the £200k payment, in effect, for switching from one similar job to another, Mark said:

“Down the years, as a constituency MP, I have become increasingly frustrated at the constant ‘revolving door’ of senior NHS appointments, with senior NHS bureaucrats turning over at a rapid rate, between extremely high paid jobs. There is undoubtedly a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” culture within the upper echelons of the NHS, which allows this practice to go on, often unchallenged. This may benefit NHS bosses, but it doesn’t benefit either patients or tax payers.

This instance is especially galling, as I have recently had at least one couple in my constituency surgery in tears, because the Basildon and Brentwood CCG (who will form part of this new reorganisation), refuse to fund even a single cycle of IVF, because they claim they cannot afford it. However, this payoff, which is far more than the Prime Minister earns in a year, would have funded at least 20 IVF cycles and probably more than that. On that basis alone, it is totally unjustifiable. 

Earlier this month, I wrote privately to the chairmen of the five CCG’s in mid and south Essex, warning them that if this merger is to come about it must represent value for money for the taxpayer. None of them have given me a substantive reply and clearly, they didn’t listen to a single word I said. So be it. In response I shall now do three things:

Firstly, I will be writing tomorrow to Gareth Davies, the Comptroller and Auditor General, who heads up the National Audit Office (NAO). I shall formally request that the NAO be called in to investigate this payment and the wider issue of the proposed merger of CCG’s in South Essex, to ensure that money is spent wisely, and the taxpayers’ interests and those of patients are protected.

Secondly, I shall also be writing to the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock MP, to ask him to launch an internal NHS inquiry into this shambles and to request a meeting with him, so that I can highlight the apparent failings in the leadership of our local CCGs.

Thirdly, once we have elected a new Speaker, on 4th November, I will approach whoever the winner is, to request an urgent debate in the House of Commons about all this, so that all South Essex MPs can have their say on what has gone wrong here.

I don’t care whether, legally, this man is entitled to this fifth of a million pounds or not. Morally, he certainly isn’t and if he had a shred if honour, he should pay the money back forthwith.”