Anger at £35m NHS chief pay rises
Labour has called for an investigation into the huge pay packets of NHS bosses after it was reported that hospital chief executives received £35 million in pay rises, despite unprecedented pressures on spending.
An investigation by the Daily Mail found bosses enjoyed pay hikes of 6%, well above those of frontline staff.
Some executives earned more than £1 million last year, while directors at a handful of the worst-performing hospitals received pay packages of up to £5,000 a day, the newspaper said.
A total of 47 hospital bosses pocketed more than £400,000 last year - putting them in the same pay league as top City traders, the Mail found.
Nearly 1,000 NHS bosses now earn £100,000 or more a year when their pension contributions are taken into account - all funded by the taxpayer.
Despite the funding crisis, the number of bosses with pay packages worth more than the Prime Minister's rose by 30% last year to nearly 600, the newspaper said.
The average chief executive in England now takes home a salary alone of £185,255 - far higher than the Prime Minister's salary of £142,500.
The Mail said the pay packages, which include salaries, bonuses and pension contributions, are "buried" within the small print of NHS records.
Politicians have vowed to tackle the pay schemes and have called for an investigation into how public money is spent.
Last year, the Government decided not to accept a pay review body (PRB) recommendation for a 1% increase for all NHS staff working in England.
Earlier this month it emerged that the boss of an NHS trust recently placed into special measures was the highest paid chief executive in the country last year with a salary of up to £280,000.
Research by pay analysts E-reward.co.uk found that Peter Morris, who stepped down as chief executive of Barts Health NHS Trust in February, received a salary of between £275,000 and £280,000 over the year to March 2014.
The trust, which is the largest in the country, was put into special measures by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in March after it was deemed to have not given ''sufficient priority to safety''.
Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said there should be an investigation into why some staff are being paid so much.
"This is an illustration of a Government that's got its priorities wrong on the NHS," he told Sky News.
"We have seen senior pay rising above inflation, when staff have been denied a basic pay rise. Those staff are working flat-out day after day. This explains why morale is just so devastatingly low in the NHS at the moment."
He added: "We have to have an investigation into this. If there has been any abuse, it has to be tackled.
"But, more than that, we just need fairness all the way down, and I've said that we will bring back the independent pay review body, so that we get fairness into staff pay again.
"To have staff denied 1%, when it was recommended and the Government had promised it, was a kick in the teeth for staff who are pulling out all the stops to keep the NHS going in difficult times."
Mr Burnham added at Labour's launch of a week of campaigning on the NHS: "This level of excess can't be justified at a time when an increasing number of NHS trusts are running a financial deficit.
"It shows a Government that has got its priorities on the NHS completely wrong."
Asked if Labour would try to claw back the £35 million claimed to have been paid out, he replied: "We need to have an investigation first.
"Some of the hospitals have disputed some of the findings.
"We need to get to the bottom of the truth of what has happened."
If the figures are borne out, he said Labour would seek to get the payments back.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "People who do a good job for patients should be paid fairly, but the NHS is a public service and too often high executive pay has been awarded as a matter of course, not because of exceptional performance.
"Our tough new inspection regime shines a light on leadership, and our redundancy payment cap is already eliminating some of the worst abuses of the system that grew up under Labour.
"A future Conservative government would ask the Department of Health to look at the Mail's investigation in detail to ensure taxpayers are getting the best value for money from managers who must always deliver the best patient care."
Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb said: "NHS frontline staff will rightly feel that this situation is unfair. It is right to have an investigation so that these contracts are looked into so that we can make the best use of taxpayers' money.
"The Liberal Democrats are committed to £8 billion more for the NHS each year by 2020 but we will do everything we can to make sure this is spent wisely."