The organisation that runs Tolworth Hospital has paid out hundreds of thousands of pounds to staff members who agreed to leave their jobs early.

South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust (SWLSTG) paid 24 people a total of £700,000 under the mutually agreed resignation scheme (Mars)- the equivalent of £29,000 each.

Three worked at Tolworth. Others were part of the trust, which runs also runs Springfield Hospital.

Paul Maloney, regional secretary for the GMB union, said: “They don’t show as dismissals, they don’t show as people being made redundant. It is an abuse of taxpayers’ money.

“It is public money and it is put in there to get rid of staff so they can be taken back when the NHS is privatised.

“The NHS is up for sale – that is a government plan.”

Mars was signed off by ministers in 2010 after then-health secretary Andrew Lansley told NHS trusts to cut management costs by more than 46 per cent over four years.

SWLSTG said the use of the payments was allowed by NHS London.

A spokeswoman said: “The payments mean staff give up their notice period and leave sooner and the payments are half what they would get in a redundancy situation.

“We only allowed staff to take part in the Mars scheme in areas where we knew we had to make cost improvement savings or where we could redeploy people whose jobs were at risk.”

Employees apply to take part in the scheme, which is designed to help trusts save money under the current fiscal austerity regime.

They are not allowed to sign a new work contract with the NHS for six months after taking part.

Savings could come to half a million pounds a year after letting go the 24 staff members.

Kingston and Surbiton MP Edward Davey said: “It does not seem to me particularly unusual. “The issue always to my mind in these things is were the terms of the contract kept to?”

Spending money to save it in later years is common in local and national government, he said.