• Letters reveal how TDA chair lobbied ministers to increase the salary cap for NHS trust chairs
  • Sir Peter Carr referred to perceived “injustice” felt by some trust chairs, whose salaries were in “stark contrast” to those at FTs
  • Department of Health has no plans to increase standard rates

Letters obtained by HSJ reveal how a senior regulator lobbied government ministers to increase the salary cap for NHS trust chairs.

Sir Peter Carr, who wrote the letters last year when he was chair of the NHS Trust Development Authority, referred to the perceived “injustice” felt by some trust chairs, whose salaries were in “stark contrast” to their counterparts at foundation trusts.

Pay slip

Pay slip

The DH said it has no plans to increase standard salary rates

The standard rates for a trust chair range from £18,621 to £23,600 a year, whereas an FT chair can receive up to £67,500 a year. Chair is generally a part-time role.

If a trust wants to pay more than these rates it must be approved by the government, so there has been a piecemeal approach to increasing salaries.

The letters, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, reveal how Sir Peter outlined the case for paying a higher salary to the chairs of four “high profile” and “challenged” trusts: Barts Health; Lewisham and Greenwich; Barking, Havering and Redbridge Hospitals; and Hinchingbrooke Health Care.

In one letter to health minister Lord Prior in June, Sir Peter said a previous proposal to increase the standard rates had won support at the Department of Health but “unfortunately the timing was inappropriate”.

He added: “Both the low rates of pay and the disparity between the NHS trust and FT sectors has created great difficulty for many years when seeking to fill chair and non-executive positions…

“Remuneration is also having a negative impact on our ability to retain our most talented chairs. They tell me they feel devalued by the disparity between the remuneration they receive compared to that paid to others.

“Some are deciding reluctantly to leave; others are simply demoralised by what they see as an injustice… I would welcome the opportunity to talk to you about some ideas I have had about how we can do this in a way that will take this vexed question off the agenda once and for all.”

He added that where enhanced rates had been agreed for vacant posts, the average number of applicants had increased from two to 14.

A TDA spokesman said: “It is vital that we are able to attract the best possible candidates for chair roles and in some cases, particularly in organisations responding to a complex and challenging set of issues, it is necessary to consider a higher level of remuneration consistent with that paid by foundation trusts.”

The DH said it has no plans to increase the standard salary rates. A spokeswoman said: “NHS hospitals must continue to show restraint on boardroom pay, including that of chairs and non-executive directors. But there are some circumstances where we offer some flexibility to attract the very best leaders.”

Regulator lobbied government to increase trust chairs’ pay