The amount of money the NHS spends on paying its senior managers has accelerated way ahead of that for nursing and midwifery staff, research by the Royal College of Nursing has found.
The amount spent on executive directors over the last two years has increased by an average of 6.1%, compared to a 1.6% rise in earnings for nurses, midwives or health visitors.
The significant gap between the two layers of staff was revealed on Monday at the RCN’s annual congress in Liverpool.
“The government should do the decent and honourable thing and give nurses a decent wage”
It gathered the information through freedom of information requests to trusts in England, which it has published in a report titled “All in it together? The Executive pay bill in England’s NHS”.
The RCN said 50% of trusts had awarded salary increases of at least £5,000 to one or more executive directors. The increases were highest at acute specialist trusts.
Geographically, the biggest jump in executive costs were found in the Eastern region, though the RCN also highlighted those in the East Midlands, North West and West Midlands.
RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “The findings in this report are yet another kick in the teeth for hardworking and loyal nursing staff.
“The government has maintained an iron grip on the pay and benefits of frontline staff, whilst the senior managers pay bill has seemingly gone unchecked,” he said. “This is the worst kind of double standard and makes a mockery of their insistence that fairness has been at the heart of their decision making on public sector pay.
He added: “Failing to pay nursing staff a decent wage will continue to affect nurses’ living standards and morale and cause many more to consider leaving the NHS which is bad for nurses, bad for the NHS and bad for the country. The government should do the decent and honourable thing and give nurses a decent wage.”
The move is part of the college’s response to the government’s decision in March to ignore the independent Pay Review Body’s recommendation for a blanket 1% rise in nurses’ basic pay.
Instead, it said at the top of their band will receive the 1% but those eligible for an incremental rise will not.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has subsequently offered to give staff a permanent 1% pay rise over the next two years if unions agree to a freeze on incremental pay in 2015-16, or agree to negotiate further alterations to the Agenda for Change contract.
But in April, members of Unison voted overwhelmingly in favour of a ballot on industrial action, including striking, over pay – though a date for this vote has so far not been announced.
Fellow unions Unite and the Royal College of Midwives are currently holding consultation exercises with members on whether to ballot for action. However, the RCN has not revealed any similar plans.
Meanwhile nurses in Scotland will receive 1%, as the Scottish government has accepted the review body’s recommendations.
The government allows trusts the freedom to set their own levels of senior management remuneration, but has called on employers to exercise “responsibility and sensitivity” to their staff who are subject to national contracts.