A HAMPSHIRE hospital trust has spent £4.6m on redundancy payouts since a merger, but more skilled staff are needed in key areas.

Some 92 staff and managers have received exit packages since the 2011 acquisition of Winchester and Eastleigh Healthcare NHS Trust (WEHCT), which ran the Royal Hampshire County Hospital and Andover War Memorial Hospital, by Basingstoke hospital trust.

Figures from the latest annual report show the average payout was £50,173 — more than double what most UK workers get.

Since January, 2012, 14 senior managers received six-figure “golden goodbyes” topping £100,000, with the best-paid individual walking away with between £150,000 and £200,000.

NHS workers are entitled to a month’s pay for every full year of service when they are made redundant, up to a maximum of two years’ salary.

Most the WEHCT board of directors were on temporary contracts and not entitled to exit packages, including acting chief executive, Dr Chris Gordon, still employed by the trust as a medical consultant.

Others took up new posts elsewhere in the NHS, including Alex Whitfield, chief operating officer, who is now employed by Solent NHS Trust, a large community and mental health trust.

Trust chiefs say only one director received an exit package, but refused to name the individual. Redundancy payments can only be reclaimed if the employee rejoined the NHS within four weeks of leaving.

Meanwhile, separate statistics indicate the merged trust, which runs hospitals in Winchester, Basingstoke and Andover, had 200 unfilled vacancies in April, 2013, including 93 nurses. Six months ago, an inspection of the RHCH revealed it was short-staffed.

Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission said there were “not always enough qualified and skilled staff to meet patients’ needs.”

The £4.6m spent on redundancy pay would have hired some 164 nurses on average pay of £28,000.

Lindsay Meeks, regional officer for the Royal College of Nursing, said: “There have been a huge number of vacancies and redundancy money could have been used to employ staff.

“But a restructure was required, because there was duplication of a number of manager roles. It will be cheaper in long run to go through the redundancy process.”

She said low staff morale and “a clash of different cultures” at Winchester and Basingstoke had led to qualified nurses leaving the trust.

“The merger rattled a lot of cages and people have been feeling very unsettled. Winchester, in particular, has had a problem.”

But she said the trust was working with the RCN on a leadership and development programme for ward sisters to improve stability.

Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said the merger had reduced duplication of staff in administrative areas and savings had allowed it to develop clinical services, including a new outpatients department at the RHCH, a new CT digital scanner and refurbished X-ray facility at Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital and a mobile chemotherapy and MRI units launched in Andover.

A spokesman said: “We have over 5,000 staff and due to normal staff turnover, as well as national challenges in recruiting, we have some vacancies.

“However, we are actively recruiting to all posts and we place a particular emphasis on recruiting to clinical frontline roles as quickly as possible, as this is our priority.”