Health chiefs are hiring hundreds of civil servants even as they make hundreds of others redundant, ministers have admitted.
The Department of Health (DoH) has just axed more than 500 jobs, with many staff set to receive generous redundancy payments as part of a total £30m payout.
But ministers have revealed that 340 new civil servants are just about to be recruited.
Critics last night rounded on the Government, accusing ministers of embarking on a costly and wasteful exercise, at a time when money is short.
Almost £2bn has been spent on NHS redundancies since 2010, with more than 5,000 exit deals paid out last year.
Latest figures show that in the last three years, more than 1,000 civil servants and senior NHS officials have received exit payments of at least £100,000, with 165 receiving at least £200,000.
In January, the DoH said 538 more employees would take voluntary redundancy in the coming months, as part of efforts to reduce the department’s running costs.
But now health minister David Mowat has revealed plans to hire an extra 340 civil servants.
Meanwhile, officials disclosed that the total costs of redundancy in the current financial year will amount to £30m.
The 538 voluntary redundancies include senior positions, including 36 posts of “deputy director” at the department.
Last night Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the strategy made “no sense” and would waste much-needed resources, at a time when the NHS is attempting to make £22bn in savings.
“The cost of redundancies and of recruiting new staff is time-consuming and costly,” she said, urging the DoH to focus their efforts on making sure there were enough frontline staff.
The disclosure, reported in Health Service Journal, follows revelations that more than 600 NHS quango chiefs are now on six figure salaries.
The number earning more than the Prime Minister’s £149,400 salary has doubled in just three years.
In 2010, the Conservatives pledged to reduce spending on NHS bureaucracy. A major reorganisation of the health service reduced administrative costs, but has resulted in almost £2bn being spent on redundafncies.
At the height of the restructuring, more than £90m was spent in redundancy to officials who were immediately rehired, sparking accusations of a “merry-go-round of waste”.
One married couple received a combined settlement of almost £1m before finding new jobs at NHS trusts.
The latest restructuring will see the DoH move offices, with staff moving from three offices on to one site.
In total, £30m will be spent on redundancies in 2016/17, the department said, with the majority of it spent on voluntary redundancies.
A DoH spokesman said: "The Department has been redesigned to make sure it is fit for purpose. We are continuing to cut running costs and are recruiting new staff with the right skills to effectively lead the health and care system as it addresses the challenges of the future."
Latest figures show 628 NHS quango chiefs from the nine main organisations are now on six figure salaries.
They include 93 taking home more than Theresa May’s £149,440 salary - up from 48 at their predecessor bodies three years earlier.
Among the highest paid is the NHS deputy medical director, earning around £225,000 a year.
Dr Jonathan Fielden is currently suspended from work and banned from contact with patients, after being arrested on suspicion of voyeurism.
The findings come as the NHS attempts to make £22 billion in savings.
On Friday Simon Stevens, who earns around £195,000, said the NHS needed more money. He told an audience: "We do need capital; we’ve said that from the get go.”
His plea came the day after the Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Prof Sir Mike Richards, who is paid around £240,000, said the health service was standing on a “burning platform”.
And last year Jim Mackey, who earns between £215,000 and £220,000 as head of another watchdog, NHS Improvement, spoke of how he believed there was “a door open” at the Treasury , saying the NHS needed to “get our case together” to get more funds.