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Health chief defends salary

EXCLUSIVE THE CHIEF executive responsible for plans to close Stroud Maternity Hospital says dealing with hostility from his neighbours and friends has been stressful, but has defended his six-figure salary and the number of administration staff he employs.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with the SNJ yesterday, Richard James, chief executive of Cotswold and Vale Primary Care Trust, said he has found it hard to live a normal life since the proposals were announced.

He said strangers frequently stop him in the street to complain about plans to close the unit.

"Sometimes that's hard because it can be on a Saturday evening in the pub or on a Sunday afternoon in the local shop," he said.

"It's quite stressful. I live in the community and I am aware of the strong feelings from my neighbours and friends so it's been a difficult time and difficult decisions have to be made in these circumstances."

Mr James denied that there is too much administration in the NHS, or that his £105,000-a-year salary is unreasonable in the current climate.

"If you look at comparable jobs in the public sector and anywhere else you'll find our chief executives are not paid more than elsewhere," he said.

"An organisation that employs well over a million people needs to be well managed."

And he said hospital campaigners have to provide alternatives to the proposals if they do not want them to go ahead.

"It's not about any criticism of Stroud or Cheltenham," he said.

"Both of those units provide an excellent standard of care.

"The challenge in Gloucestershire is that we are running maternity and obstetrics units on three sites and it would cost £2-3 million a year to continue to do so.

"It's better to provide a full service on one site than provide a lesser service on several sites.

"It's very easy to say 'no' but it's much more difficult to provide alternatives.

"I think people have got to engage with the problem that we've got. There's no point in just saying 'no'."

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