Anger at pay increase for NHS bosses

TOP health service managers were awarded inflation-busting wage increases of up to 20 per cent last year despite calls for curbs on public-sector pay, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

• Purvis: 'rises not sustainable'

Individual pay awards rose by as much as 45,000 for executives on the 13 health boards which run the country's hospitals and health services.

Altogether, the 100 board members were given an average rise of 6 per cent, which compares to the 2.75 per cent given to nurses.

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This meant that in 2008-09, the average salary for board members rose to 111,000-114,000, nearly six times the typical nurse's starting pay.

The issue of executive pay in Scotland's public sector is set to take centre stage at Holyrood this week as opposition parties lead calls for a reduction in bonuses and pay rises awarded to the most senior staff.

According to figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats, 2,439 people earn more than 100,000 in the public sector, totalling 330 million a year.

An investigation by Scotland on Sunday compared the salaries offered to the board members in health boards from 2007-08 to those in 2008-09, including chief executives, medical directors and directors of public health, HR, finance, nursing and performance. Health boards have just published figures for 2008-09.

The salary bill for 12 boards – excluding NHS Borders which was unable to provide figures – came to 10,310,000. The previous year, the bill for the 12 boards was 9,855,000.

The increase would have been much higher if not for a 115,000 cut in NHS Lothian's salary bill.

By contrast, pay costs at NHS Forth Valley and NHS Grampian rose by nearly 20 per cent. The best-rewarded executives in the country were at NHS Ayrshire and Arran, where the seven board members earned 1,040,000 in pay.

The top earner across all the health boards was Tayside's former medical director Dr Bill Mutch, whose 240,000-245,000 salary was boosted by a merit award scheme that allows consultants to nominate themselves for extra pay. He was also paid arrears.

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The biggest pay increase went to NHS Grampian's medical director Dr Roelf Dijkuizen who saw his salary rise by 45,000, the highest increase in the country, also due to upgrading and arrears.

The figures also reveal how the senior executives of tiny NHS boards, such as Orkney, earn similar sums to their colleagues in huge board areas such as Glasgow. In Orkney, the medical director Peter Baxter was paid 145,000-150,000, only slightly less than the 185,000-190,000 earned by Glasgow's Dr Brian Cowan. Orkney's 20,000 population is 60 times smaller than Glasgow's.

There are also large discrepancies in the pay awards to individual boards, with Ayrshire and Arran paying its own director of public health 35,000 more than the same post in Lothian. NHS boards insisted the salaries were all paid in accordance with "national agreed pay ranges".

Major pay increases are agreed by the Scottish Government before being scrutinised by each health board's remuneration committee, mostly made up of non-executive directors. Top hospital consultants, including medical directors, can increase their basic salaries by up to 70,000 through bonuses handed out at the discretion of colleagues and ministers.

Critics said the salary rises were not justified at a time of national pay restraint. Finance spokesman for the Scottish Lib Dems Jeremy Purvis said: "These rises are simply not sustainable. We all want the best NHS but we have to recognise that the people who are already the highest earners in the NHS are receiving uplifts way in excess of inflation".

The Lib Dems are now demanding that ministers halve the amount of money they have budgeted for doctors' bonuses, from 30m to 15m.

Scottish Conservative health spokeswoman Mary Scanlon said: "It is not only insulting to front-line NHS staff, it is demoralising when they have to see such high pay awards going to senior staff when they are having to take only nominal pay increases."

The Scottish Government said last night it was prepared to act on the pay awards, pointing out that it had already enforced a freeze on its pay, and that of senior civil servants. A spokesman said: "The Scottish Government has agreed to extend that to the highest paid people across the public sector whose pay arrangements come under our control.

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"Our public-sector pay policies for next year will set out key pay parameters, and will be issued as soon as possible."

The figures on pay come after Scotland's financial watchdog, Audit Scotland, issued a clear warning that savings would have to be made in the NHS if front-line care is not to be affected in coming years.