Why treat health authority managers differently from other staff groups?

It is time once again for ministers' annual snub to health authority managers (see News, pages 4-5). It is now three years since the 6,000 managers still employed on national terms and conditions last had a national pay rise - a whopping 1 per cent. And with a very clear message emerging that health secretary Frank Dobson personally will not tolerate an increase in the senior manager pay bill of more than 2.7 per cent, it is highly likely that many people working in HAs will get little or nothing at all in the coming year. Furthermore, the discretion to offer local increases will doubtless be seen by some as the discretion to offer nothing.

There is simply no reason why HA managers should be treated any differently from any other staff group. Is it really ministers' intention that any other group on national contracts should get only local increases this year? Obviously not. And since ministers are relying so heavily on HA managers to deliver their new NHS, it would be prudent to shore up the morale of this already disillusioned group.

What makes it all so baffling and indefensible is that moves towards a new national system of pay determination for all staff are already under way. Perhaps someone can explain the logic of the DoH approach?