Published: 27/06/2002, Volume II2, No. 5811 Page 10

The Scottish NHS Confederation has hit back at Scottish National Party claims that the NHS is 'bloated' with senior 'pen pushers'.

The SNP's health spokeswoman Nicola Sturgeon said this week that Scotland had twice as many senior managers per head of population as England.

Describing managers as 'pen pushers', she said: 'The NHS suffers from a massively bloated bureaucracy, with whole layers of management now effectively redundant.

'It is time we bit the bullet, stopped trying to reform the system and simply axed redundant layers of management.'

But the Scottish Executive said the SNP figures, showing there were almost 36 senior managers for every 100,000 of population - compared with just 17 in England - should be put in context.

A spokesperson said: 'In England only those managers at general manager, chief executive and board level, or those reporting directly to these executives, are included in their figures.

'The Scottish figures include all managers employed in the NHS, some on salaries as low as£15,000 per year.'

Scottish NHS Confederation director Hilary Robertson said: 'All NHS managers work hard to do a tough job in difficult circumstances.

'It demeans their contribution to the NHS to describe them as 'bloated pen-pushers'.'