Chief executives were informed in a letter by health minister Lord Hunt last week that their annual increase would be in line with raises set for other senior public sector staff, including medical consultants and senior civil servants.

The very senior managers pay framework is awarded to board-level managers in strategic health authorities, primary care trusts and acute trusts that meet fitness for purpose criteria.

Leeds primary care trust chief executive Chris Outram said the amount was 'expected'.

'The NHS has serious financial issues and anything that would look like a generous increase would not be appropriate. This seems to be a firm payment,' she added.