• Costs represent an eight fold increase on previous year
  • Bulk of the departures in 2016-17 related to a major restructuring and cost cutting programme at the department
  • Majority of leavers were “voluntary exits”

The Department of Health and its executive agencies spent £39m on “exit packages” last year, following the departure of more than 700 staff.

The bulk of the leavers in 2016-17 related to a major restructuring and cost cutting programme at the DH, with the total costs representing around an eight fold increase on the previous year.

In a parliamentary answer published this week, health minister Philip Dunne said “voluntary exits” of DH staff accounted for £31m of the expenditure.

The DH accounts said another £1.4m was spent on compulsory redundancies, which suggests the remaining £6.6m was spent on voluntary redundancies at its executive agency bodies, Public Health England and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

Spending on exit packages was £5m in 2015-16, £14m in 2014-15 and £6.4m in 2013-14.

HSJ revealed the DH’s restructuring plans in January, which followed a redrawing of the NHS funding ringfence in the 2015 spending review to exclude the department and other central bodies. More than 500 staff took voluntary redundancy.

Weeks later it emerged that around 200 new staff would be recruited to ensure the “right skill mix” within the department, which was partly in response to the challenges posed by the Brexit negotiations.

Across the whole of the NHS, including the DH and its agencies, £153m was spent on exit packages in 2016-17, compared to £141m in 2015-16.

The DH said in a statement: “The department undertook a redesign and subsequent restructure to make sure it is best placed to meet current and future health and social care challenges facing our country.

“Redundancy and other departure costs were paid in accordance with the provisions of the civil service compensation scheme.”