Most senior managers are still waiting for a pay rise this year, according to the annual survey conducted by Pay and Workforce Research.

The most common award being considered is 3 per cent - the level already offered and rejected by non pay review body staff who will vote in an industrial action ballot in November.

That is bound to delay senior managers' pay rises further, because 74 of the 143 trusts and purchasers who responded to the survey said they would not decide until the non-review body award is settled. Another 37 NHS bodies said they were waiting for national guidance.

Insiders say the delay is essentially political. One said it would not be 'tactful' to make awards to senior managers until after settlement has been reached on non-review body staff pay.

The survey found that only 22 of the respondents had already made an award, half of them in the London and South East regions.

All but one was paid from 1 April, with the amount ranging from 1.25 per cent to 4.7 per cent.

Those considering making awards higher than 3 per cent said that this was to compensate for the fact they had either made no award last year, or one of less than 2.7 per cent, the top level suggested in guidance from health secretary Frank Dobson.

The survey also highlighted concern at the erosion of pay differentials, particularly of nurse managers on trust terms and conditions.

The basic annual salary for a Ggrade ward sister or charge nurse with discretionary points is£24,515, with potential to increase earnings by 10 per cent. The median basic annual salary of a nurse manager is£26,000.