Some strategic health authorities will try to dictate the pay of senior managers on their patch despite new guidance, their union has warned.

SHAs have to approve pay for directors in trusts and primary care trusts but an independent review for the Department of Health last year said some had the “expectation… they should be able to amend or veto particular decisions”.

The area of most tension is the relationship with the SHA and I don’t think this guidance is going to help

Jon Restell

It recommended trust remuneration committees should be given the main responsibility for setting pay.

Guidance issued by NHS chief executive David Nicholson last week acknowledged “differences have arisen” in committees’ relationships with SHAs.

However, it said the balance of power should be “matters for the bodies concerned”, and did not give individual organisations any new responsibility.

Managers in Partnership chief executive Jon Restell said it appeared the DH was “trying to steer the [SHAs] towards a lighter touch”, but did not go far enough to stop SHAs that wanted to impose their decisions.

He told HSJ: “The area of most tension is the relationship with the SHA and I don’t think this guidance is going to help. Remuneration committees have felt the [SHA] has been too prescriptive, effectively taking their decisions away.

“They are saying, ‘We don’t agree with your assessment of individual A… We don’t think your finance director is as good as you say they are.’”

The new guidance does give employers more flexibility to vary performance related pay for staff on the very senior managers’ framework. However, this must also be approved by SHAs.

The guidance came days before Hartlepool Borough Council voted to condemn North Tees and Hartlepool Foundation Trust’s decision to award some of its directors 10 per cent end of year performance related bonuses for 2008-09.

Councillors unanimously backed a motion stating: “This council calls on the foundation trust to reconsider these pay awards and in so doing demonstrate that senior executives and policy makers in the organisation have not lost touch with their frontline staff and the public.”

Foundation trusts are not covered by the NHS very senior manager pay framework. It applies to special health authorities, trusts, ambulance trusts, primary care trusts and SHAs. Pay in SHAs is approved by the DH.