Charity founded by Jeremy Hunt paid 66% of income to chief executive

A charity founded by the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, paid more than £110,000 – two-thirds of its income – to his former political adviser Adam Smith, who lost his job over a lobbying scandal.

Nice work if you can get it! – Owl

Rowena Mason 

Patient Safety Watch, which was set up to research preventable harm in healthcare, paid Smith as its sole employee and chief executive about 66% of its income in the year ending January 2022.

Hunt part funds the charity but it also solicits donations from the public on its website.

It was established in 2019 to conduct research, but appears to have produced no papers since then. A message on its website says: “We have an ambitious research programme looking into a wide variety of patient safety issues. We will publish details of our forthcoming research on these pages.”

However, the page for reports says: “Our reports will be published here – please check back soon for our first piece of research.”

Its main output appears to be a blog and publishing newsletters from Hunt in his capacity as founder and trustee of the charity. The annual accounts explain that the charity chose not to publish its research – some of which has been completed – while the NHS remained under significant Covid-related pressure and it would do so “when the climate is right”.

Smith resigned as an adviser to Hunt in 2012, when Hunt was culture secretary, after the Leveson inquiry, over a scandal in which he had exchanged messages with a lobbyist for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. The company was seeking permission for a takeover of BSkyB (now Sky) at the time, with Hunt in a quasi-judicial role.

When Smith stepped down, he said he acted without the authority of his boss and that he had allowed an impression to form of an over-close relationship between News Corp and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Smith is now employed by Hunt as a parliamentary aide, having returned to work for him in 2020.

Smith’s £110,000-£120,000 salary, first reported by the Civil Society publication, represents more than two-thirds of the charity’s annual income of £164,400 for the financial year ending January 2022. Its annual accounts report that £106,000 of its income came from donations and legacies, and a further £58,400 from other trading activities.

The accounts show that its only employee received remuneration of £47,232 in 2020, and that this more than doubled to £113,600 in 2021. Its 2022 accounts refer to a salary band of £110,000-£120,000.

The three trustees of Patient Safety Watch do not receive remuneration. The trustees are Hunt, a charity worker James Titcombe, and a chartered accountant David Grunberg.

Hunt and Patient Safety Watch did not respond to a request for comment.