- The Health Secretary said the Mail's campaign exposed abuse of funds
- Promised a future Conservative Government would stop abuse as priority
- Labour health spokesman Andy Burnham vowed to investigate findings
- Other senior politicians said NHS trusts should be 'hauled' before MPs
The Health Secretary promised a crackdown if the Conservatives are re-elected
Ending the ‘abuse’ of NHS money exposed by the Mail will be a priority if the Conservatives are re-elected, the Health Secretary said last night.
Speaking as the Mail revealed how NHS managers were potentially dodging income tax by channelling huge salaries through personal companies, Jeremy Hunt promised an immediate crackdown if his party is in power after the election.
He said: ‘The Mail’s campaign has exposed that off-payroll contracts are clearly being abused both at a management level and in the hiring of agency staff. So we will stop the abuse as a priority if we form the next government.’
His comments led a storm of reaction from all political parties, as well as health experts and medical professionals. The Mail yesterday revealed how hospital bosses had taken £35million in pay rises during the worst funding crisis in a generation. And today it can be revealed that some could dodge tax by channelling salaries through personal companies.
The practice is being used by temporary executives – some of whom earn more than £2,000 a day – and allows them to avoid paying income tax and national insurance in the normal way.
Dr Sarah Wollaston, former Tory chairman of the health select committee, said: ‘I was asked about the Mail’s investigation today at an open public meeting. People are right to be concerned about the best use of public money.’
Labour health spokesman Andy Burnham has also vowed that a Labour government would investigate the Mail’s evidence. And he said the astonishing pay rises should be ‘clawed back’, adding: ‘It cannot be right at a time when NHS staff have been asked to accept years of [pay] freezes to see this level of excess at the top.’
The extraordinary pay deals have also been condemned by the Royal College of Nursing, which branded them ‘shocking’, while health experts including the Royal College of Physicians and government health adviser Sir Brian Jarman demanded a review.
Former Commons public accounts committee chairman Margaret Hodge, who investigated tax avoidance by public officials three years ago, said NHS trusts should be ‘hauled’ before MPs to be held to account.
‘This is a way of avoiding tax,’ the Labour MP said. ‘The reason the Treasury took action to stop public officials being paid through personal service companies was because my committee uncovered this was going on.
‘I’m cross the Government has not stopped this and a future government has got to sort it out.
‘They should make it a condition that if you are being paid with taxpayer money you have to be properly on the books.’
Roger Goss, of Patient Concern, said the situation was ‘ludicrous’, adding: ‘There is no way of justifying it.’
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: ‘It’s sickening to see top NHS bosses using the tax rules for personal gain.’
Labour's health spokesman Andy Burnham said his party would investigate the Mail's findings if elected