NHS managers get 10% rise

24 Sep 98
Pressure for pay restraint in the NHS was dealt a blow this week as it emerged that chief executives' salary rises were three times higher than nurses' last year.

25 September 1998

Early signals from the annual reports of health service organisations indicate that the top managers had an average pay rise of 10%. This is in direct conflict with health secretary's Frank Dobson's 2.7% guideline, outlined in a letter he sent out to health authorities and trusts earlier this year. He is said to have sent out a further letter to NHS chairmen last week reiterating the 2.7% ceiling, and there are rumours he has threatened sanctions if trusts do not toe the line.

Chief executives' pay is normally set by a committee of non-executive members of the health authority or trust. Although the health secretary can call for restraint, he cannot force NHS bodies to limit their managers' pay increases.

The staff unions are expected to submit their written evidence to the nurses and midwives' pay review body at the end of next week. It is believed this will include a call for a substantial pay rise in order to attract and retain nurses, though the unions will not ask for a specific figure. It will be supported by evidence on the number of nurse vacancies and the large number of nurses that are due to retire in the next five years. The unions will also point to a drop of more than 8,000 in the number of student nurses and reiterate that Mr Dobson's promise to recruit an extra 15,000 nurses will not be met if pay does not improve.

Health union Unison said pay rates had to be increased if the NHS wished to recruit and retain high quality staff. A spokeswoman said: 'Nurses have been falling behind. A quarter of all nurses have another job of some sort. We would like to see staff able to do their job with a decent rate of reward for the work they do, which is increasingly requiring more skills and professional qualifications.'

It is thought that the British Medical Association will ask for a 10% rise for doctors.

Mr Dobson and health minister Alan Milburn are believed to be battling with the Treasury over pay. Ministers wish to make nurses a special case but the Treasury is adamant that its public sector pay policy must not be broken. The unions will argue there is one law for nurses, another for top NHS managers.

Publicly, ministers insist that nurses' working conditions are more important than pay. Mr Milburn launched a new recruitment drive this week which will aim to prevent attacks on staff, improve job security and increase training opportunities for non-practising nurses who wish to return to the NHS. However, unions and managers' bodies complained that pay was not even mentioned in the strategy.


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