Loadsa Millar!

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CASH-STRAPPED Milton Keynes Hospital is paying its acting chief executive Mark Millar more than £1,000 a DAY, the Citizen can reveal.

Meanwhile another director is about to be paid a hefty severance sum after being off sick, suffering stress, for 18 months.

And in recent weeks the hospital has handed over at least £100,000 in payments to private consultancy companies – for help in masterminding massive budget cuts,

This week, following the Citizen’s findings, a city finance expert has called for the hospital’s spending policy to be investigated by Audit Commission watchdogs. But NHS Trust bosses insist the spend, spend, spend is an ‘investment’ to steer the hospital out of financial crisis and protect its future’.

They employed Mr Millar on an interim basis 14 months ago, after chief executive Jill Rodney resigned out of the blue from her £150,000 a year post following a period off sick with stress.

Ever since he has been paid more than £25,000 a month, plus an average of £800 a month for ‘travel and subsistence’.

The 57-year-old high-flying executive, who joined the NHS from school as a trainee accountant, has an impressive track record of leadership with other health authorities.

But he is not on the Milton Keynes Trust payroll.

Instead he is employed as a consultant and his fees are paid to his own business, a partnership called Millar Management Associates.

This is based at Mr Millar’s private home in Suffolk, and his partners are listed as his wife and their 20-year-old twin children.

One city business advisor said: “This is quite a common practice. High earners can cut their tax payments by making close relatives directors and shareholders and pay them bonuses.”

Saving money was Mr Millar’s priority as soon as he stepped into office, faced with an end of year £6.2 million budget deficit.

This month he unveiled the Transformation Programme to close at least one ward, cut down patient stay times and centralise services with other hospitals.

This programme, according to official records, has incurred four payments of more than £25,000 each to consultancies agencies and accountants in recent weeks.

Another challenge Mr Millar faced was the long-term absence of his £81,000 a year chief operating officer, Anita Reed.

She went off sick with work-related stress early in 2010 and has never returned. A settlement sum is yet to be agreed.

Meanwhile the hospital has forked out more cash for interim staff to cover her job.

The spending record has worried city finance expert Sam Crooks, the councillor who steered Milton Keynes Council through millions of pounds of budget cuts.

He told the Citizen: “Payments on this scale need to be investigated. Senior managers cannot be protected when there are so many health cuts going on, and front line staff are being made redundant.”

Mr Millar told the Citizen: “The Transformation Programme is the hospital’s response to the changing financial position of the NHS nationally and locally. It is designed to make sure we offer patients safe, effective and efficient care.

“We need to save £27.7million over two years against an annual income of £155 million. Most hospitals – and indeed commercial organisations - implementing this scale of change engage external support.

“In January, the Trust Board agreed to invest in the specialist support it felt was needed to make the necessary changes. This is an investment in the future of our hospital and its services.

“With the help of this external support, we’ve also been able to develop the skills in-house. This has allowed our staff to take a greater role in the running of the programme, and the level of external support was scaled down last month as a result.”