A cash-strapped hospital trust has been criticised for spending £2,557 a day on its chief executive - more than a nurse earns in a month.
Interim boss Derek Smith was paid £248,041 for 97 days work at the Dorset County Hospital NHS Trust in Dorchester, with an extra £19,539 in expenses to cover his travel, food and subsistence. The salary was paid to an agency in return for three or four days work a week from September 1, 2009, to March 31 this year.
Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust's annual report and account for 2009 to 2010 was presented to governors, who were told that the trust needed to save £20 million over the next three years to bring it back to break-even point and then into surplus.
Fiona McEvoy, grassroots manager for the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "This enormous salary is siphoning away NHS funds that should be used for medicine, operations and retaining vital frontline staff. It's difficult to imagine how such a disproportionately large wage can be justified, particularly in the current climate of spending cuts."
Interim director of finance Terry Tonks was paid £222,106 - working out at £1,194 a day for 158 days work with £16,755 expenses. The figure for interim director of human resources, Tracey Peters, was £115,491 - £663 a day for 174 days work with £4,040 expenses.
Interim turnaround director, James Shillito, cost £110,712 or £1,230 a day for 90 days work with £8,0802 expenses. Consultants Ernst and Young were also paid £349,608 and Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) were paid £420,571 to help turn around the hospital.
The report showed that the Monitor, which regulates hospital foundation trusts, assigned a financial risk rating of one - the lowest in a scale of one to five - and a red governance rating at the end of the 2009 to 2010 financial year.
The trust's chairman Dr Jeffrey Ellwood said: "We were facing a £7.4 million deficit and had no credible recovery plan in place.
"I understand that many people will view the cost of the interims as high and feel we should have tried to recruit a permanent team earlier. A comparison with the costs of permanent executives shows that the trust spent £315,000 more than permanent executives would have cost over the same period."
Unison, which represents 250,000 nurses and healthcare professionals, also blasted the spending. Tanya Palmer, regional head of health at Unison, said: "Staff at the hospital will be shocked - it is absolutely outrageous."