NHS Lothian spent more than £1 million on voluntary redundancy payments to 26 members of staff last year, it has been revealed.
The health board shed 734 staff in 2010-11 as part of Scottish Government cost-cutting measures, most of which were achieved through retirement and staff turnover.
In line with government policy, there were no compulsory redundancies.
The figures, released yesterday in the auditor general’s report on NHS Scotland’s performance, show that those who received redundancy in the year to April 2011 received an average payout of £41,346, bringing the total bill to £1,075,000.
NHS Lothian said most of those taking voluntary redundancy were managers and backroom staff, and the board had already recouped the money spent on payouts with the resulting savings on staff costs.
Another 734 staff will have to be shed for the year to April 2012, and as the News reported in September, this is likely to include almost 400 nurses.
Alan Boyter, director of human resources and organisational development, said: “We do not have a voluntary severance scheme.
“However, we will consider requests from staff on an individual basis. Requests will only be approved if they allow for workforce modernisation and can demonstrate value for money.”
But Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association, said: “It’s a big mistake making all these redundancies. They’d have been better keeping the million pounds and keeping the people employed.
“The million pounds that they’re saving is the million that they’ve paid out so they’re not in profit, they’re back where they started.”
The report from the auditor general for Scotland, Robert Black, said the health board had met its financial targets for the year to 2011, but it retained a recurring deficit – a sum which was cut from its budget this year using savings that cannot be repeated next year, such as the sale of assets.
This year the recurring deficit had, however, been reduced from £9m to £4m.
Mr Black said of the report: “At a national level, we are seeing a good picture of the performance of the NHS in Scotland.
“However, it is clear that there are building pressures in the system from increased costs and rising expectations and demand.”
Yesterday also saw the release of the annual report of Scotland’s chief medical officer, Sir Harry Burns.
He reported declining mortality rates in the country’s three biggest killers – cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke, and welcomed a decline in smoking-related illnesses, but said obesity, poor diet and excessive alcohol consumption were still causing unacceptable levels of ill health.