NI slams fat cat NHS managers

31 May 01
Northern Ireland Assembly members have dubbed senior hospital managers 'fat cats' after nearly half of all pay awards exceeded ministerial caps.

01 June 2001

A damning reporting from the Assembly's Public Accounts Committee this week revealed staggering disparities in pay and conditions among the 19 trusts.

The Altnagelvin Hospitals Trust was found to be among the most generous, with pay increases ranging from 11.7% to 32% in 1999/2000, despite the 10% limit set by ministers.

A director of acute services at the Newry and Mourne Trust received a 54.4% pay boost while the chief executive at Craigavon and Banbridge Community Trust secured an 18.6% rise. In comparison, increases for directors at the Mater Hospital ranged from just 7% to 9%.

Trusts in the province also boosted pay through a series of performance-related schemes, bonuses and perks including lease cars and travel expenses. Yet 17 of the trusts reported deficits – including the generous Altnagelvin, which had a £1m shortfall in 1999/2000.

The PAC called for immediate sanctions against trusts that continued to break pay barriers. It also heavily criticised the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety for being 'taken for a ride' by some staff and trusts and for stalling on introducing a new pay and grading system, which had been expected in March.

'The committee views the continued disregard of pay restraint by some of the trusts as indefensible and insensitive,' said Billy Bell, PAC chairman. 'We are astonished that, against a background of public concern, media interest and ministerial request, some of the trusts have still not fully complied with the instructions issued by the department.'

But health managers hit back at the criticism, claiming that they were being used as scapegoats for service deficiencies. 'Senior executives' pay in Northern Ireland is about 15% below that of comparable staff in England,' said William McKee, president of the Institute of Healthcare Management. 'Senior executives can be an easy target to blame for service deficiencies. Don't make their work more difficult by subjecting them to undeserved attacks.'

Health minister Barbre de Brùn described the report as 'disappointing', and said a more transparent pay system would be introduced at the 'earliest possible date'.


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