COLLEAGUES have expressed their disgust at the treatment of their “hard-working and dedicated” South Tyneside NHS boss.
Lorraine Lambert, chief executive of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust has come under fire in a national newspaper article which described her as an ‘NHS fat cat’.
But she says she’s NHS to the core, and refused a pay rise during the financial year 2011/12 to save the service money after reports about her salary and pension.
It was reported that Ms Lambert, who has worked for the NHS for 36 years, withdrew from the NHS pension scheme when her pension pot approached the tax-free lifetime allowance limit, which was £1,5m in 2012/13.
Plus it was reported the following year she took an extra £20,000 on top of her £165,000 salary – as “compensation” for missing out on yet more NHS pension benefits after choosing to leave the scheme.
But she says her salary is low compared to chiefs at other trusts, and she has not cost the NHS any extra money for a number of years.
Peter Davidson, chairman of the Trust, has sent an email to all workers outlining what he sees as the appalling treatment Ms Lambert has received in the national press.
He told the Gazette: “It’s disgusting and so unfair. Everyone who has worked with, or has came into contact with Lorraine, knows just how hard-working and dedicated she is.
“She is available seven days a week, and is NHS through and through.
“Lorraine has given 36 years of service to the NHS, and 25 of those have been here in South Tyneside, and we are all upset and annoyed at this horrible article.”
Mr Davidson confirmed that the Trust’s board insisted Ms Lambert received a pay rise in 2011/12 – but she had refused.
He said: “During this time our workforce had doubled to 5,500, because we acquired community services from Gateshead and Sunderland. The income had also doubled to £200m.
“So the board’s remuneration committee brought in an external remuneration company to compare the wages of other trusts, and they found that Lorraine was receiving substantially less than other chief executives.
“But she refused to accept a pay rise, despite the fact she was taking on more responsibilities.”
Mr Davidson also says the £20,000 Ms Lambert received was forced upon her.
He said: “Because she wasn’t accepting the pay rise, and because she had withdrawn from the pension scheme, the remuneration committee agreed to pay her £20,000 - the amount of money they would have paid her, as an employer’s contribution to her pension.
“It was forced upon her as an act of goodwill as she was, in fact, saving the NHS money by not accepting the pay rise.”