A mental health trust at the centre of poor care allegations has applied to pay a senior nurse more than David Cameron.
Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, which has come under scrutiny over a series of unexplained patient deaths, made the request in regard of appointing a new nursing and therapies director.
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It is among 15 trusts that have applied for permission to the Department of Health to pay at least one board member more than the prime minister’s £142,500 annual salary.
The news comes after the chief executive and chair of the new regulator NHS Improvement said recruiting the right managers was the most difficult issue facing the provider sector.
In June, Jeremy Hunt wrote to trust chairs questioning whether board members should be paid more than the prime minister and said any new appointment above this level would have to be approved by the Treasury.
A Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Health from Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal reveals there were 17 applications from 15 trusts to appoint at least one person above this rate as of December (see box).
The trusts requesting directors get paid more than £142,500
- Chelsea and Westminster Hospital FT – chief executive
- Kings College Hospital FT – chief executive
- Surrey and Borders Partnership FT – medical director
- Northern Lincolnshire and Goole FT – medical director
- Colchester University Hospitals FT – chief executive
- Kent Community Health FT – chief executive
- Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health FT – medical director
- Birmingham Children’s Hospital FT – acting chief executive and chief medical officer
- Sherwood Forest Hospitals FT – chief executive
- Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals FT – chief executive
- East Kent University Hospitals FT – chief executive
- St George’s University Hospitals FT – chief operating officer
- Royal Surrey County Hospital FT – chief executive
- South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare FT – chief executive
- Southern Health FT – nursing and therapies director; and operations director – mental health, learning disabilities and social care
The data also shows a request for a salary of £225,000 for Mark Davies, chief executive at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals Foundation Trust. Chelsea and Westminster Hospital FT applied for a salary of £200,000 for its chief executive, who is now Lesley Watts.
NHS Improvement chief executive Jim Mackey last week identified the difficulty in recruiting to leadership positions in trusts as “the hardest part” of the situation faced by the provider sector.
He told the first joint meeting of the Monitor and NHS Trust Development Authority boards: “If we are honest… that is the hardest part of it at the moment, recruiting.” He added that in “the short term, we can’t do anything about it”.
The health secretary has given conflicting messages to the NHS on how much people in top jobs should be paid. In February 2014, Mr Hunt told HSJ he had no problem with managers being paid more than the prime minister if they were “outstanding” candidates.
But in June 2015, he told The Daily Mail that “the NHS needs to make every penny count, so it is right to question why so many staff are paid more than the prime minister.