One in six staff paid redundancy during the government’s controversial NHS reforms has been rehired by the health service.
Some 17 per cent of staff, including managers at the top of salary scales, have been rehired in similar jobs or as consultants, some within 28 days.
Data provided by the Department of Health to the House of Commons health committee, which is investigating NHS spending, shows 19,126 members of staff have been made redundant since 2010.
Of these, 3,261 have been rehired by the NHS, including 2,534 within one year and 403 within just 28 days.
Labour MP Barbara Keeley criticised the payments during the committee’s hearing into public expenditure on health and social care and said people are “just coming back through the revolving doors”.
She said: “This is public money, pay-offs and redundancies and people taking pensions from the public purse and then being re-employed in another capacity. Effectively we are seeing people paid twice, from the public purse.”
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the committee the rules had now changed so that if people are re-employed within a year, they had to pay back redundancy money.
But this will not apply to those people who have currently been rehired.
“We can’t apply it retrospectively,” Mr Hunt said.
Ms Keeley said: “That just smacks of appallingly bad planning. That just smacks of carelessness with public money. I’m sure the people outside of here will not be impressed that you have policies you can’t enforce.”
Outgoing NHS England chief executive Sir David Nicholson said the government spent £600m-£700m on redundancy, which was lower than originally estimated.
“We have a position where, legally, if somebody is made redundant, they can be re-employed within 28 days,” he said.
Sir David said he has written to trusts and asked them to voluntarily agree not to rehire anyone as a consultant within six months.
“I had no power to make it happen. I just asked them to do that,” he said.
Conservative MP Charlotte Leslie said a “large loophole” has clearly been left and that asking the NHS not to rehire is commendable but comes “after the horse has bolted”.
Mr Hunt said: “I don’t think it’s possible in a huge system like the health service to prevent people leaving and becoming consultants. Indeed, it may be in the interest of the health service and of patients that we are able to tap into the expertise of people on a time-limited basis through a consultancy contract.
“What we don’t want is abuse of that system and we don’t want the public paying twice.
“We’ve tried to learn lessons from this reorganisation and previous reorganisations by making some changes as we’ve outlined.
“The overall point I’d make is that by removing 23,000 administrative posts, including 8,000 managers, we are able to employ 6,500 more doctors; the NHS is able to do 800,000 more operations.”