Health service unions and managers' groups this week joined forces to call for the inclusion of senior managers in a new pay determination system covering all NHS staff.
According to an unpublished Unison survey, the vast majority of its senior manager members want to see their pay set alongside that of other staff.
The survey found widespread dissatisfaction with the current arrangements.
The findings, which will be used by Unison to support its case for the inclusion of managers in a new system when talks begin this autumn, also shows that managers believe the NHS performance-related pay scheme has failed.
Two-thirds of those who took part in the survey thought PRP should not form any part of their pay in future, and substantial numbers raised concerns about working hours.
The findings were cautiously received by the president of the Association of Healthcare Human Resource Management, Colin Pearson, who warned that earlier national pay systems had been 'tremendously inflexible'.
'We don't know what's going to be in the new system yet, so people should wait and see before committing themselves,' he said.
Mr Pearson also backed PRP as a 'significant motivator and retainer of good staff'.
But NHS Confederation human resources committee chair Andrew Foster backed Unison's call to include managers alongside other staff. 'That is entirely consistent with our position,' he said.
Institute of Health Services Management vice-chair Mike Lager said it would be 'a helpful way forward'.
'Senior managers fulfil challenging roles, but it is a team approach and a pay system which recognised all the players would be welcome,' he argued.
Both Mr Foster and Unison national officer Alastair Henderson argued that PRP was not an 'appropriate motivator in the NHS' because of its public sector ethos.
Mr Henderson said a number of health authorities drawing up a new system of local contracts for senior managers from next March were not planning to include PRP 'in any form'.
'We did a study in the North West region which indicated that less than 20 per cent of trusts had PRP,' said Mr Foster. 'A few years ago that would have been more like 80 per cent.'
The Unison survey found that many managers were also concerned that their contracts did not set a ceiling to their working hours.
See Comment, page 15.