Recent reports of the Barts and London NHS Trust using bailiffs to reclaim overpaid wages seem too extreme to be true. Sarah Kean-Price

In a troubling and almost-unbelievable piece on Saturday, the Mirror reported an extreme measure taken by the Barts and London NHS Trust to reclaim overpaid wages from medical staff.

A FOI request found that the Trust had managed to overpay their staff by a whopping £1million over the past years and, whilst they had managed to reclaim nearly £724,420, they choose to use bailiffs for the rest.

The NHS Chief Executive, Dr Peter Carter, called this move “very worrying”, saying that it gives the NHS a bad name and points to a “wider malaise”. He defended staff not noticing overpayment as nurses get different pay cheques each month, meaning that minor differences in pay are unlikely to be noticed.

He went on to say that “debt collectors are highly inappropriate” in this situation. The Health Service Journal – who ran the initial story reporting on their investigation – also noted that a member of staff had tried to inform payroll after being overpaid from 1999 but “kept on being paid”.

Given that the Barts and London NHS Trust are currently making job and budget cuts, using bailiffs does not seem like the most PR-friendly move (to put it lightly).

With cuts galore in our political climate, striving to reclaim overpaid pay is a timely and logical move; you can understand why they are eager to retrieve what money they can.

But bailiffs seem an extreme measure. Did the bosses stop to think about how the staff’s children and dependants might feel to have bailiffs knocking on the door or, God forbid, breaking the door open to take items to meet the sums required? I appreciate there may be some stubborn, bad apples in your staff team but had all options really been exhausted? Mediators, union officials, financial advisors? Monthly repayments that even the most strapped of us could agree to?

Truth is stranger than fiction but it still seems hard to believe that bailiffs were the only choice left. Best wishes for any staff affected by this and here’s hoping you all come to a reasonable agreement soon.