Thirteen trusts write off £1.3m in overpayments to staff

Published on: 19 Dec 2023

Thirteen trusts were responsible for just over half of £2.6m overpayments to staff written off by NHS providers last year, data obtained by HSJ reveals.

Mid and South Essex Foundation Trust wrote off the biggest amount during 2022-23 at £331,830. This equates to 13 per cent of the overall total and just over £23 for each of its approximately 14,000 full-time equivalent staff.

MSE was followed by King’s College Healthcare FT, which wrote off £167,000, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals FT, which wrote off £116,000, and Barts Health, which wrote off £111,000.

In total, 113 trusts recorded overpaid salaries being written off last year, although several said the sums related to overpayments made in prior years.

Meanwhile, 19 trusts wrote off at least £37,000, the equivalent of the average full-time NHS salary.

The 13 trusts named in the chart – which between them wrote off £1.3m – were all approached for comment.

Spokespeople for South East Coast Ambulance Service FT, Hertfordshire Community Trust, and Midlands Partnership all said they had recorded a one-off payment, which included historic amounts. In particular, Hertfordshire said their higher payment was linked to the appointment of a new deputy director of finance, which prompted “a retrospective review of all salary overpayment debt”.

MSEFT chief finance officer Dawn Scrafield said: “We are one of the largest trusts in the country and this amount is a very small percentage of our total wage bill. We are improving our finance and payroll systems to help make more accurate and timely pay changes, which will reduce unwarranted overpayments.”

A King’s College Hospital FT spokesperson said: “Overpayments do sometimes occur, although they are rare, and the figure provided represents a very small percentage of our overall pay bill as well as being the sum of cumulative overpayments over a number of financial years. However, we continue to work hard to reduce overpayments, and when they do occur, we strive to recover costs wherever possible.”

Spokespeople for Barts, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust and Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust stressed they made extensive efforts to recover debt and only wrote off salaries in exceptional circumstances.

SWB chief finance officer Dinah McLannahan said: “When considering any write-off, the trust must ensure it is in the best interests of the public to attempt recovery where economical to do so.”

Update: This story was updated at 13:56 on 20 December to update the quote from King’s