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'No apologies' as DH culls PCT directors early

The Department of Health is making ‘no apologies' as it forces NHS non-executive directors to resign earlier than planned, in a move that managers warn will destabilise the transition to clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

The Appointments Commission has written to all audit chairs and non-executive directors to ask them to stand down from their roles, unless they are appointed to a PCT cluster.

The move comes despite the health bill not being passed by Parliament, and even though the directors were expected to be in place to ease the transition of the management of the NHS from the PCTs to GP-led CCGs.

The dismissals come as part of PCT clustering which involves each cluster having a single board and as such, a single chair, a maximum of six non-executive directors and an audit chair (also a non-executive).

A spokesperson from the Appointments Commission told Pulse: ‘The Appointments Commission has been writing to all audit chairs and non-executive directors to explain how the appointments will be made to PCT boards as part of the establishment of the new Cluster Board arrangements.'

‘It was made clear in this letter that any current PCT board member who is not to be appointed under the new cluster board arrangements will be asked to stand down from their role.  It has remained a last resort throughout this process that an appointment would be terminated and this would only be considered if an unsuccessful appointee's resignation was not forthcoming.'

The move has sparked concern among managers, who say it is the ‘biggest mess' they have ever come across.

Sir Bill Taylor, chair of Blackburn with Darwen Care Trust Plus, told Pulse: ‘I've had 35 years in the public service and this is the biggest mess I've ever come across. They've been sacking people left, right and centre, or making them redundant, costing millions of pounds and that doesn't seem to make any sense.'

‘We're being told to resign, being told that we may be reappointed, and if you don't accept your resignation, you'll be sacked and you'll be put on the blackballed naughty table.'

‘While we accept that we've got to transfer power over to the GPs over the next 15-16 months, if we're removed altogether there'll be no opportunity to transfer organisational memory, so all the experience of the non-executive directors that's been built up over the years may be jeopardised'.

Sir Bill was one of the signatories of a letter to the NHS Confederation last week, which calls for ‘the least disruption to the crucial role of the NEDs [non-executive directors] and chairs during the next 15-16 months'.

The NHS Confederation, who welcomed the letter, said it raised some ‘really important local issues that we will be discussing with the Department of Health'.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: ‘We make no apologies for slashing the amount we spend on bureaucracy and redirecting it to the frontline where it is really needed.'

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