NHS chief executives must not freeze Agenda for Change increments while awarding themselves “indefensible” pay rises, Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter has argued.
He told the Commons health committee yesterday that most NHS staff accepted the need for a two year pay freeze while finances were tight, but holding back increments would create “a significant problem”.
The move would be seen as unacceptable when information from trust annual reports, collated by the RCN, showed that chief executives received an average 7 per cent pay rise last year.
He said: “That [pay rise] showed very poor judgement and poor leadership in a time of such economic austerity.”
According to the data, chiefs in many trusts received no pay rise at all, and others limited themselves to the 2.7 per cent increase paid to staff on Agenda for Change. However, the fact the average was 7 per cent meant “a significant number” of chief executives, mainly at foundation trusts, had pay rises of 10 per cent or more, Mr Carter told the committee.
He added: “I think it’s indefensible for FTs to have awarded themselves double digit pay rises in such an economic climate.”
Institute for Employment Studies head of reward Duncan Brown told Nursing Times’ sister title HSJ the increases were probably due to new candidates being attracted into foundation trusts from the private sector.
Pay figures in annual reports normally included bonuses and, sometimes, pension entitlements, he said. However, he added: “The trade unions are right to raise this issue because it hardly appears helpful in engaging staff in a tough financial climate.”
An independent commission on fair pay in the public sector, headed by Will Hutton, is due to make interim recommendations later this month on how to ensure managers do not earn more than 20 times the lowest paid person in their organisation.
Mr Carter also told the committee he thought foundation trust surpluses should be the “first port of call” in identifying extra resources, rather than cutting frontline jobs.
He said he understood the desire to save for a rainy day, but said “the rainy day is here”.
British Medical Association chair Hamish Meldrum agreed clinicians should not face further pay restrictions.
He noted doctors were already having their pay frozen, while time set aside for supporting professional activities was being squeezed and excellence awards were being halved.
He said: “I think we have probably gone as far as we can expect them to go.”