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Siobhan McArdle left South Tees Hospitals Foundation Trust with a bang in 2019, declaring “life is just too short” for the “very challenging financial and regulatory environment” she had to deal with.

This was not the last we would hear about the management consultant turned NHS chief executive though, thanks to the generous pay and rewards package she managed to negotiate at the trust.

In October 2019, HSJ revealed she had been paid £53,000 in overtime payments on top of her already beefy £240,000 annual salary in 2018-19. Dozens of her peers pointed out they routinely work extra hours for no extra bread.

Then after the trust’s annual report for 2019-20 was published last year, it was revealed that she’d been given another £23,000 in overtime payments for the first half of that year, plus another £180,000 in lieu of her notice period, plus another £60,000 chucked in.

But that still wasn’t the end of the tale. After a long running freedom of information process, involving an appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office, HSJ has finally obtained full details of her contractual arrangement.

This revealed she was actually only contracted to work four days per week, meaning her pro-rata salary was in fact around £300,000 (far higher than her peers), and she was also entitled to a whopping 45 days of annual leave.

In its ruling to the trust to release the information, the ICO described the holiday allowance as “considerably larger than what might normally be expected in a public sector role – even a senior one”.

It also noted the trust had previously been criticised by the Care Quality Commission for its “use of resources”, saying this “raises the question of whether the trust achieved value for money when it employed its former CEO – who is of course ultimately responsible for how the trust uses its resources”.

Remuneration for aspiration

It seems an awfully long time ago, but it is only a year since NHSX announced the first set of trusts which would be given money to sweep away their digital cobwebs. 

The funding marked the end of NHS England’s contentious policy of handing out wads of cash for tech to a small number of already digitally advanced trusts in the hope they could show the rest of the NHS how it’s done – and instead focused on helping the (supposedly) worst in class.

Since then, attitudes and use of tech has – as is being reported everywhere – changed hugely, but many trusts are still grappling with outdated IT infrastructures.

Therefore, it is a relief to report that a second wave of aspirant trusts will be announced shortly, according to NHSX.

The unit, which is set to be lassoed into NHSE in the coming months, will name “twenty plus” trusts in its next cohort, according to chief executive Matthew Gould.

Although Mr Gould accepted there was less cash available for the aspirants than for the selected trusts under the previous programme (Global Digital Exemplars), he said the allocations would help bring the NHS closer towards a more structured form of funding for digital transformations.

He confirmed plans remained in place to provide funding for further waves of aspirants in the years ahead, meaning the programme – for now – appears to have a safe future.