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Health service has 'too many bureaucrats'

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 14/11/2015

A total of 36 non-medical staff pocketed over £100,000 in the last 12 months
A total of 36 non-medical staff pocketed over £100,000 in the last 12 months

An "unacceptable" hike in highly-paid health service bosses has led to accusations of too many bureaucrats and not enough doctors.

The number of managers on six-figure salaries in Northern Ireland has almost doubled in just three years.

A total of 36 non-medical staff pocketed over £100,000 in the last 12 months - up by 70% since 2012/13.

Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of non-clinical hospital workers in the UK.

It comes at a time of severe financial pressure on the health service, with record numbers languishing on waiting lists.

Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson said the revelations were outrageous.

"The publication of these figures shines a light on what is happening at the top echelons of the local health service," she said.

"I am outraged that while key staff and patients are being forced into intolerable conditions, so many public sector workers and administrators at the top are being remunerated over £100,000 per annum."

The salary details were disclosed by Health Minister Simon Hamilton after an Assembly question from the UUP.

Mr Hamilton confirmed that 36 non-medical staff earned more than £100,000 in 2014/15, including six on £125,000-plus.

This is a 71.4% hike on 2012/13, when 21 non-medical staff earned £100,000-plus.

Ms Dobson, who is the UUP's health spokesperson, said she was shocked by the answer.

"What makes this discovery most galling is the fact that it comes at a time when funding pressures in our hospitals have dangerously compromised patient safety," she added.

Latest waiting time figures show unprecedented demand on the health service.

A record 373,000 people across Northern Ireland are waiting on treatment, a hospital appointment or a diagnostic test.

Ms Dobson added: "Core services are now facing absolutely unacceptable pressures and it is widely accepted that the longer people with serious illnesses such as cancer are forced to wait, then the more harm they come to.

"In addition to the increasing waits, essential staff such as our nurses and midwives have been forced into taking unprecedented industrial action in their battle to receive the most basic pay rises; something which they are still being refused, as Simon Hamilton claims he can't afford it."

Ms Dobson urged the Health Minister to reverse the "totally unacceptable" growth in senior staff salaries.

"Simon Hamilton needs to intervene and ensure money is going where it is most needed, and not into the ever-swelling pay packets of an increasing number of background administrators," she added.

Mr Hamilton's answer also shows that 980 doctors in Northern Ireland earn between £100,000 and £124,999. A further 445 earned over £125,000.

Earlier this week a senior medical expert warned staff cuts were needed to make savings.

Sir Liam Donaldson, who reviewed how our health system is run, said the Health and Social Care Board should be scrapped immediately.

It is not due to be abolished until April 2017. Sir Liam told the BBC that it should happen sooner.

"The last thing you want is an organisation which is dying in management terms running the show for years," he said.

And he called for money saved from cutting red tape to be diverted to frontline medical care.

Last September the Belfast Telegraph reported how Northern Ireland has 42% more non-clinical staff than England, proportionate to our population.

Details of regional spending and staffing levels were set out in a 2012 report by the National Audit Office - the most recent region-by-region comparison.

Auditors found spending per head of population here was £1,975 - £75 more than England.

In terms of medical staff - nurses, midwifery and health visitors - we had 1,003 per 100,000 people, more than England's 846 per 100,000. However, in 2009 we were lagging behind Scotland (1,124 per 100,000) and Wales (1,052 per 100,000).

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: "Clearly individuals' contractual entitlements cannot simply be ignored. It is also worth noting that Northern Ireland continues to lose a number of senior figures to Great Britain where health sector management salaries are significantly higher than Northern Ireland.

"The Minister wishes to maximise funding going to the frontline, but values high quality clinical and managerial leadership and recognises making Northern Ireland's health service truly world class cannot be achieved without high class leaders."

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