Nurses have attacked rising pay for senior executives by drawing a comparison with the earnings squeeze of frontline staff.

The Royal College of Nursing has published study All in it Together? The Executive Pay Bill in England’s NHS showing that the cost of executive directors at 126 trusts over the last two financial years has increased by an average of 6.1 per cent. The RCN said nurse earnings rose just 1.6 per cent over the same period.

However, in making the comparison the union submitted freedom of information requests asking trusts for the total cost of the executive team, including salaries, national insurance costs, employer pension contributions and other benefits including redundancy payments and compensation. The data is based on a team and not per person.

Nurses earnings data published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre is based on per individual and do not include these additional costs to employers.

The RCN told HSJ that over the past two financial years, there had not been any significant changes in additional costs other than pay, which RCN claims makes up the majority of the increase in cost.

It also examined individual pay and bonuses for executive directors, and said half of the 126 trusts had awarded salary increases of at least £5,000 to one or more executive director and a quarter had awarded increases of benefit in kind payments to at least one or more executive directors.

The union highlighted seven trusts where executives had received bonuses including Sir Jonathan Michael, the chief executive of Oxford University Hospitals Trust, and Jan Filochowski the formwer CEO of West Hertfordshire Hospitals, who both received bonuses of between £40,000 and £45,000, according to RCN.

It unveiled the report at its annual congress which is taking place this week in Liverpool.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “The findings in this report are yet another kick in the teeth for hardworking and loyal nursing staff.

“The government has maintained an iron grip on the pay and benefits of frontline staff, whilst the senior managers pay bill has seemingly gone unchecked.”

Jon Restell, chief executive of Managers in Partnership said executive pay had to be “transparent and open” adding: “Boards should be public about the way in which the determine executive pay.”

But he added: “There are large-scale vacancies at this level and we don’t how much of the pay we are talking about here is going to expensive interim agencies rather than individuals.

“If that is the case it would seem a little unfair to start talking about fat cats when we just don’t know and unless the RCN can also be sure redundancy pay isn’t part of this increase we would be skeptical that managers are paying themselves much higher increases than nurses.”

The government has angered NHS unions following its decision in March to reject the independent Pay Review Body recommendation for a blanket 1 per cent rise in basic pay.

Instead, those at the top of their band will receive the 1 per cent, but those eligible for an incremental rise will not. Those who have increments withheld on performance grounds will receive no pay rise at all.

The unions Unison, Unite and the Royal College of Midwives have all threatened industrial action over the pay decision.

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