Trust chief executives earned an average of £70,000 last year, compared with £114,000 for those working in the private sector, according to Pay and Workforce Research.

Analysis of 1997-98 trust annual reports and accounts shows a marked decline in performance related pay, with chief executives on average receiving only£1,000 on top of their basic salaries.

In more than half of trusts, chief executives were not the highest earners. PWR says it can be assumed that in most cases the most highly paid board member was the medical director. Median earnings for the highest paid directors were 21 per cent above those of chief executives, at£84,000.

If trusts complied with the government's directive to limit senior managers' increases to 2.7 per cent, median basic salaries will have risen to£71,000 in 1998-99.

PWR points out that no guidance has yet been issued for salaries in 1999, but says most top posts will need a salary review this year because they have more responsibilities as a result of mergers.

Pay and Workforce Research News. 01423-842684.