Posted: Sat 16th May 2020

Welsh Government paid £350,000 towards North Wales health board’s controversial “Marbella Man” recovery director

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Saturday, May 16th, 2020

The Welsh Government gave a failing health board an extra £600,000 to help it save money – including £350,000 to pay a temporary director dubbed “Marbella Man”.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request also revealed how former Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board chief executive Gary Doherty asked for £2.2m pounds to fund a “recovery programme”, which was aimed at saving cash in the 2019/20 financial year.

Documents reveal his plans were slimmed down, later asking for £1.1m to create more director roles, despite forking out for management consultants and bringing in accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Cooper to look at ways of saving cash.

Welsh Government confirmed £350,000 was specifically to fund the post of interim recovery director, which was taken up by Phillip Burns at a rate of £1,990 a day.

He was dubbed “Marbella Man” because his contract allowed him to work one day a week from his home in the Spanish town.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Additional funding of £600,000 was provided to Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board in 2019-20 to deliver improvements and progress against the special measures framework, which included the interim recovery director post.”

Even with the £600,000 from Cardiff, Betsi Cadwaladr only managed to reduce its deficit from £41.3m in 2018/19 to £40m in 2019/20, according to its own figures.

The contracts of just five management consultants employed last year had a budget of almost £900,000, and it emerged the board had engaged at least 38 management consultants over the past two years or so.

Plaid Cymru MS Llyr Gruffydd said: “Spending millions of pounds on expensive management consultants has not helped reduce BCUHB’s deficit in any significant way.

“For Welsh Government to throw additional money at employing Mr Burns and his colleagues, who have not delivered in terms of that reduction, feels like ‘money for old rope’.

“It also makes clear the Welsh Government’s central role in the failure to turn round BCUHB’s fortunes since it took direct control five years ago.

“(It) raises huge questions about why that money wasn’t being used to boost front-line services, to reduce waiting lists, employ more staff and support GPs.”

In the documents revealed by the FOI request, Mr Doherty wrote to NHS Wales chief executive Dr Andrew Goodall in July last year.

He asked for more than £1.1m extra cash to fund four directors, one assistant director and “additional senior improvement practitioners”.

In a reply to Mr Doherty in August last year, Dr Goodall agreed to fund Mr Burns’ post but questioned the need for more directors.

He said: “The information provided on the executive structures and portfolios leaves me with concerns on the lack of clarity, accountability frameworks and how the proposed changes will deliver the sustainable improvement needed.”

Later in the document, he said: “I also have concerns on how the proposal to increase the number of directors that sit on the board impacts board governance arrangements and effectiveness….I understand the board has outstanding questions that match our concerns.”

Mr Burns had his £360,000, nine-month contract cancelled early by Betsi Cadwaladr last month.

Mr Doherty departed his £200,000-plus role as chief executive of Betsi Cadwaladr UHB in February this year after more than four years in charge.

By Jez Hemming – Local Democracy Reporter



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