Chan Wheeler to leave NHS less than one year as commercial director

Chan Wheeler, the health department’s controversial US commercial director, whose pay and conditions package was branded “an eye-watering deal” by the Tories, is resigning to return to the US less than one year into his three year contract.

The health department confirmed that Mr Wheeler is to leave in July “for personal, family reasons”.

Chan Wheeler NHS commercial director
As commercial director, Mr Wheeler recommended – to the chagrin of the private sector – a marked reduction in the scale of the second wave of independent sector treatment centres set up to treat NHS patients, saying the need for them had been “severely miscalculated”.

He accepted arguments that the NHS itself had sufficient capacity in some areas. He has also overseen the shift from centrally purchased private sector contracts to local purchasing by primary care trusts.

His arrival caused controversy because he had received backdated share options at United Health similar to those that led to William McGuire, its chairman, resigning and reaching a $600m (£300m) settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. His UK pay package was attacked by the Tories after it emerged he was receiving £100,000 a year towards his accommodation, on top of a £185,000 salary and pension.

Mr Wheeler said he was sad to be leaving, while David Nicholson, the NHS chief executive, said he had done “a fantastic job”. A departmental spokesman said the balance of Mr Wheeler’s three-year contract would not be paid.


The detail of Chan Wheeler’s renumeration was only revealed this year. February 05, 2008 Health Direct posted: NHS gives American chief ‘eye-watering deal’

The Department of Health is paying more than £100,000 a year towards housing the American who heads its commercial directorate – on top of a salary of at least £185,000, a civil service pension, two business class flights a year to the US, a relocation package of up to £35,000 and eligibility for a bonus.

He also made $8m from the sale of stock options, according to the filings. He has been named in a civil action in the US by public sector unions seeking $5.5m in damages over backdated stock options that he received from UnitedHealth.

His ultimate boss at UnitedHealth, William McGuire, then chairman, recently paid $600m to settle an action by the SEC over backdated options similar to those that, according to court documents, Mr Wheeler received.

Frank Dobson, the former Labour health secretary, whose parliamentary questions revealed Mr Wheeler’s remuneration, described it as “a bit much when everybody else in the health service is being subjected to pay restraint”.

He hit out at the £8,400-a-month housing allowance – understood to be spent on a three bedroom apartment in Knightsbridge, central London. Many people were finding house prices out of reach, Mr Dobson said, and “we seem to be helping that by making accommodation for the American commercial director of the NHS free.”

The package was described as “an eye-watering deal” by Stephen O’Brien, Conservative health spokesman, who asked whether it offered value for money for the taxpayer.

Mr O’Brien said: “He is being paid an ex-pat’s package but getting the advantage of a civil service pension. And the £100,000-a-year in accommodation costs would cover the salaries of four nurses. It looks like the worst of both worlds for the taxpayer.”

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