Health service staff sent ‘posh’ gift with survey about bosses
HEALTH service bosses sent boxes of posh chocolates to every member of their 2,000-strong workforce – just as staff were about to rate the performance of their employers.
The unexpected gifts were sent out in the same package as a staff survey aimed at finding out what workers really think about the cash-strapped Camden and Islington Mental Health Trust.
The results of the survey are seen by the government and are vital to the way Whitehall assesses the performance of the Trust.
Staff who received the parcels contacted the New Journal and described how they felt bribed to say something nice about the Trust.
The move has been jokingly referred to as “the choccies for votes scandal” but many stern-faced critics have also warned the £3,000 outlay on the gifts is wholly inappropriate.
The bill will be covered by tax-payers’ cash but the Trust said the confectionery was
simply a way of saying thank you for hard work.
The Trust, which is one of the best performers in the country according to the Care Quality Commission, deals with mental healthcare across the two neighbouring boroughs.
One employee, speaking on condition that he would not be identified, said: “It was quite a cheap trick. The chocolates were totally unnecessary and we all felt that being sent them with a survey was actually quite condescending to our intelligence. It was as if they were saying, ‘give us a good report and you can have a chocolate’.”
A colleague added: “I don’t want a measly box of chocolates, I want a properly funded NHS that provides staff with all the tools they need to do their jobs. This looked like nothing short of a bribe to get me to say how wonderful the Trust is.”
The letter accompanying the chocolates – described by staff as “high end”, “dusted with cocoa” and “not your average box of Milk Tray” was signed by chief executive Wendy Wallace. She has recently received an 11.5 per cent pay increase, taking her salary up to £130,000 a year.
Former chief executive of the Camden Mental Health Consortium Scott Stevens said: “It seems like bribery, and it is more serious because of cuts in the past two to three years, where services have been closed.
“In some ways it is even more sinister than that – if the staff received a survey at the same time, it looks like they are saying, ‘here is a nice box of chocolates, now we expect you to say nice things about us in this survey’. Essentially it is being paid for by our taxes. It is clearly money that could be better spent elsewhere.”
Chairman for the Camden Trades Council and Camden Unison branch secretary George Binette questioned the value of sending out chocolates to staff in tough economic times. “At a time when they are complaining about the closure of the Accident and Emergency department at the Whittington, and speaking of around £100million worth of cuts at the Royal Free, and when we hear that there is a £500million shortfall across the North Thames health authority area, it is an extraordinary thing to do,” he said.
Lib Dem councillor David Abrahams, who sits on the Town Hall’s health scrutiny committee, added: “Most people would rather managers spent NHS money on mental health drugs and alcohol treatment rather than chocolates for their staff.”
A spokesman for the Foundation Trust rejected the suggestion that the chocolates had been a sweetener to staff.
He added: “As a result of the efforts, care and attention of our staff, we have been awarded the top grade of ‘Excellent’ for both our Quality of Care and our Financial Management by our watchdog, the Care Quality Commission. To celebrate this, and to thank each one of them for their part in this achievement, we gave every member of staff a box of four chocolates, along with a letter of thanks from Wendy Wallace, the chief executive.”
He added: “These were sent out in late November, through internal means, to eliminate postage costs, and the total cost was £3,000 for almost 2,000 staff. We wish to reiterate how proud we are of our staff and the work they have put in to enable us to be one of 38 Trusts – out of 392 nationwide – to achieve this accolade.”