• New rules come after high-profile cases of senior managers being reemployed
  • Commissioners and NHS Improvement staff affected for the first time
  • Unions says new rules are also unclear

NHS England is planning to strengthen rules around senior managers who are rehired after receiving a redundancy payment for leaving the service.

A proposed change to the NHS standard contract would mean that very senior managers could have to repay all or some of their redundancy payments if they are rehired by a commissioner. The rules are currently only in place for providers.

Very senior managers made redundant by NHS Improvement would also be caught by the requirements for the first time.

NHS England and NHS Improvement are expected to see 278 jobs cut as they work more closely together, so some managers could be affected by this if they are made redundant after the new standard contract comes into force in April.

There is also a proposed change to cover those who go on to work for a management consultancy and whose time is then “sold back” to the NHS.

The move comes after several high-profile cases where very senior managers have returned to work in the NHS within months of being made redundant and have not had to repay any of their redundancy payments. Existing rules in the standard contract mean there is a sliding scale of repayments if the manager is re-employed within a year.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock intervened in the case of Ian Stidston, the former accountable officer of Castle Point and Rochford Clinical Commissioning Group who left in April 2018 with a redundancy payment of between £150,000 and £160,000. He started work at Thurrock CCG in December 2018.

When Mr Stidston’s reemployment became public, Mr Hancock met with four Conservative MPs from Essex who then issued a press release quoting Mr Hancock saying he had used his powers to intervene and reclaim the money. However, HSJ revealed the money had not been paid back and, as of November this year, there were no plans to ask for it to be repaid.

Shortly afterwards HSJ reported that a second manager, Rakesh Marwaha, had been working as a consultant for NHS England just two months after being made redundant from his role as accountable officer at Erewash CCG. Mr Marwaha was not asked to repay any of his redundancy.

A document explaining the change to the standard contract, published yesterday, says: “The contract has for some time included provisions relating to the re-hiring, by providers, of very senior managers (VSMs) who have recently been made redundant by an NHS employer.

“Under these arrangements, the new employer must ensure that provisions are included in the employment contract of the individual, requiring – in specified circumstances – repayment of some or all of the redundancy payment the individual has received.

“We now propose to broaden the scope of the provisions so that they also apply to redundant VSM re-hired by commissioners and to any VSM who is re-hired, following redundancy, by a management consultancy and whose time is then “sold back” to the NHS.

“We are also proposing to expand the definition of NHS Employer, to ensure that a VSM made redundant by NHS Improvement is subject to the same regime.”

Jon Restell, chief executive of Managers in Partnership, said: “Some of the repayment provisions for VSM redundancy payments are hard to understand and implement… Our main concern is that the public and the NHS do not lose the services of experienced managers because unclear or disproportionate terms make them avoid re-joining the NHS. We must remember that it was the NHS that made them unemployed in the first place.

“However, only some clarity is provided here. This statement begs more questions than it answers. It is unclear when these rules would come into force, and MiP is concerned to establish that these rules would not be applied retrospectively, a move that would be deeply unfair.”