The GMB union's claim that granting parity at Hartlepool General Hospital to 200 staff with those receiving bonuses of up to 20 per cent would apply across the country at a cost to the NHS pay bill of an extra£40m a year needs examination (news, page 2, 8 April).

The bonuses may not be justified. In theory, they were based on the premise that staff worked proportionately more effectively than would be expected. Did they? It took competitive tendering for ancillary services to demonstrate the lack of worth in NHS incentive bonus scheme practice.

Further, bonus payments were supposedly self-financing. Therefore, why should the taxpayer fund the NHS pay bill with an extra£40m?

Too often the payments were only self-financing as a consequence of savings arising from reductions in high staffing levels that should never have existed.

Attainment of parity is not a one-way road. Does a human resources director receiving£50,000 have twice the relative responsibility, accountability and skill as a ward sister earning approximately half that sum?

John Guy

Barnard Castle

County Durham