Hospital boss defends herself over fat cat claims

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A HOSPITAL boss in South Tyneside who’s been labelled a ‘NHS Fat cat’ over her salary says she’s devastated by the claims.

Lorraine Lambert, chief executive of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, says’s she’s NHS to the core and actually refused a pay rise during the finical year of 2011/12 to save the service money.

The things written about me have been twisted in a way which isn’t correct.

Lorraine Lambert, chief executive of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust

Ms Lambert, who has worked for the NHS for 36 years, found her picture splashed across the front of the Daily Mail today under the headline of ‘Greed Of The NHS Fat Cats’.

The story claimed NHS bosses were milking the system by taking £35m in pay rises during the worst funding crises in a generation.

It went on to say that Ms Lambert withdrew from the NHS pension scheme when her pension pot approached the tax-free lifetime allowance limit, which was then £1,5m in 2012/13

Plus the following year she took an extra £20,000 top of her £165,000 salary – as ‘compensation’ for missing out on yet more NHS pension benefits after choosing to leave the scheme.

Ms Lambert told the Gazette that she is now looking into taking legal action over the way the facts and figures have been construed.

She said: “I’m not under any illusion, I do get a handsome wage for the job in which I do.

“But to be placed on the frot page of a national paper and to suffer a personal attack like this is devastating.

“Everyone who knows me, knows how committed to South Tyneside and the NHS I am, and I will be until the day I retire, if you cut me in half I am NHS to the core.

“The things which have been written about me have been twisted in a way which isn’t correct. I made it clear three years ago that I did not wish to accept any pay rises and nor would I accept any for the rest of my career within the NHS.

“In reality I actually have one of the lowest salaries when compared to chief executives from other trusts, even the paper’s own table says the average pay taken home is £189,000, so I am unsure why I have been singled out.”

Hospital boss explains pension pot

Ms Lambert, who retries later this year, says it is correct that she came out of the pension pot in 2012/13 as part of the flexible retirement scheme which is offered to all NHS staff.

In total 184 of the borough’s Trust workers also came out of the scheme during the same period.

On July 1 2011, community health services in Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland transferred to South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust from NHS South of Tyne and Wear as part of the Government’s Transforming Community Services programme.

It was during this time that the hospital board’s independent remuneration committee decided, that as Ms Lambert’s work load had increased, then so should her salary by between £40k to £50k - but she refused to take any rises.

However, the following year she did receive £20k ‘gesture of goodwill’ which consisted of employer’s contributions towards her pension, the amount she would have received anyway had she have still been in the scheme

She said: “It’s making out like there’s this £1.5m pot of money just sitting there, that’s the forecasted amount should I, god willing, have access to if I live for another 30 years beyond retirement.

“It’s not actual real money just lying there, if I don’t live that long, then obviously I won’t receive anywhere near that amount.

“As with most pensions the employee puts an amount in and so does the employer.

“I was given the £20,000 after I refused the pay rise, but had I have still been in the scheme, I would have received it anyway, so it was a case of cash being moved from one pot to another, no new costs were incurred.

“I haven’t cost the NHS any extra money for a number of years, but my successor will probably end up being paid more than me for the role they are required to do.”

Ms Lambert says the one good thing to come from this is the support she’s already received from people.

She said: “I have had numerous emails from people telling me to keep my chin up, they know how dedicated I am to the NHS and to South Tyneside. I will be taking both union and legal advice about this matter.”