Health workers suspended on full pay

Some health workers in this region have been left suspended on full pay for more than six months after allegations of wrongdoing.

Some health workers in this region have been left suspended on full pay for more than six months after allegations of wrongdoing.

Twenty-eight members of staff at Norfolk's health trust have been suspended because of allegations of misconduct and nine went on to be dismissed.

And the same number have been suspended at the region's ambulance trust, of which six were dismissed and a further five resigned.

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, are from when NHS Norfolk and the East Anglian Ambulance Trust were formed 2006 up to the end of the last financial year in April.

At the ambulance trust, one person was suspended for six months in 2008-9 before resigning. Another person was suspended for eight months before being dismissed. In 2007-8, one person was suspended for 39 weeks before resigning, and two others were suspended for five months before being dismissed. The six dismissals were for issues including conduct, patient care and in one case a criminal record issue.

It paid suspended staff �52,000 last year, and �40,000 and �47,000 in the two previous years, though the total cost to the organisation is likely to be much higher.

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An ambulance spokesman said: 'Our staff are our most valuable asset and we take every care to ensure that proper procedures are followed and that the employee concerned is given support and advice throughout the process. At the same time we have a responsibility to ensure that the care we provide to our patients is of the highest standard.'

Kevin Risby, branch secretary for the Unison union, said: 'I don't think it is healthy for the individuals concerned. I don't think it is healthy for the ambulance service to have people sitting at home for that length of time while they are trying to deal with those issues.'

At NHS Norfolk, which runs community health services and community hospitals in most of the county, three people were suspended on full pay for more than six months, although it has not been revealed whether they were eventually dismissed or not. Five were suspended on full pay for three to six months.

The figures do not include GPs, as NHS Norfolk says it does not hold this information. It also claims that information about how much was paid to suspended staff 'is not available' but says employees would have been paid 'all contractual entitlements'.

The offences investigated at NHS Norfolk include working under the influence of alcohol, allowing junior staff to carry out complex procedures without supervision, and 'inappropriate care of client'. Four of the suspensions were for accessing confidential or inappropriate information, one for breach of confidentiality, and two for bullying and harassment.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said: 'What shocked me is the extraordinary length of time people are left on suspension in the public sector. It leaves the person suspended in a state of turmoil and uncertainty. It is not in the interests of the taxpayer.'

At the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, 20 members of staff have been dismissed in the last three years, four of which were in the last year. Most of these were for absence, 14 in all, while conduct was the reason for one dismissal and 'disciplinary' the reason for five. Capability was not the reason for any dismissals.