A MANAGEMENT consultant who has been on £1,000 a day at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust represents a ‘slap in the face’ for staff, it has been claimed.

Ex-hospital chief Dr Paula Vasco-Knight has been working for the trust, which oversees the Royal Blackburn, Burnley General and Accrington Victoria hospitals, for nearly 12 months.


But her appointment has never been acknowledged publicly and comes amid growing controversy over the total bill for non-medical consultants at the trust.

The hospital refused to directly confirm the amount of money Dr Vasco-Knight was paid when asked by the Lancashire Telegraph, but did not say the £1,000 a day was incorrect.

Hospital bosses insist Dr Vasco-Knight, who used to be the £165,000 a year head of Torbay Hospital, has not held an executive position in East Lancashire but has been working on ‘quality and efficiency’ projects at the trust, which left ‘special measures’ 12 months ago.

But Russ McLean, chairman of the Patients Voice Group for East Lancashire, said: “This is a real slap in the face for staff who have been on a pay freeze for the past 12 months.”

He told the Lancashire Telegraph he was ‘shocked’ that Dr Vasco-Knight had worked for the trust for 12 months and would be raising the issue with chief executive Kevin McGee.

“If the trust is in such financial difficulties then I find it abhorrent that they are spending this amount of money on management consultants,” he added.

Burnley councillor and former MP Gordon Birtwistle said: “It is totally outrageous – I’ve got no problem if they are spending this on medical consultants but how can they justify this?”

Former hospital chairman Ian Woolley said: “No-one could dispute the importance of quality and efficiency for the trust but I would question whether someone needs to be paid £1,000 a day.”

The trust is trying to balance the books after it was revealed it was facing a £22million deficit this year, a problem shared by a number of other NHS bodies.

Dr Vasco-Knight left the trust at the end of last month. Management refused to clarify whether her involvement with the organisation was full-time or part-time.

The trust has previously acknowledged several other key interim appointments, such as Nicky O’Connor, interim corporate affairs director, and Christine Hughes, interim communications director.

Kevin Moynes, the trust’s human resources director, said: “ELHT has short-term contracts with a small number of senior managers to support a range of change programmes, to backfill ‘difficult to fill’ vacancies, and occasionally for specialist advice.

“In addition to our permanent staff, they have contributed to the on-going progress that the trust is making to maintain the confidence of our community.”

Mr Moynes said the trust had been recognised as a leading place to work nationally and patient and staff satisfaction surveys showed ‘a marked improvement’.

The latest hospital board report shows that the organisation is already £1million over budget on staffing against budget, with around 87 nursing vacancies and 30-plus healthcare assistant roles remaining unfilled.

Dr Vasco-Knight did not wish to comment.