£100,000 Northern Ireland health bosses: More than 800 workers are making six-figure sums
Health trusts are paying more than 800 employees salaries of over £100,000 a year - in spite of huge budget cuts, the Sunday Life can reveal.
Some of the top earners - senior doctors and administrators - are taking home more than the Prime Minister David Cameron.
We uncovered the shock figures after making freedom of information requests to all five health trusts.
They revealed that a total of 848 staff are raking in wages of over £100,000 a year - before receiving generous pension packages.
Consultants can also top up their pay packets by undertaking lucrative work in the private sector.
The total does not include employees in other health bodies like the Public Health Agency, the Health and Social Care Board, or the department itself.
Ray Rafferty, spokesman for the health service union Unison at the Royal Hospital in Belfast, questioned the high salaries for senior staff at a time of health service cuts.
He also pointed out that senior medical staff may in fact be earning much more than their basic salary - thanks to performance-related bonuses and contracts which allow them to undertake lucrative private work.
He said: "You'll never see what their total earning capacity is, you'll only see what they get paid by the various trusts.
"We are very concerned that the vast majority of staff who work in the NHS are quite lowly paid and they work very hard and provide an absolutely dedicated service for the patients.
"However, there is great unfairness where a small group of staff, whether they be clinicians or some senior managers, are paid very high amounts."
Mr Rafferty explained: "If there are delays and the waiting lists increase, quite often a government minister will start a waiting list initiative and these doctors will get paid a second time - for seeing people in the evenings or weekends.
"The vast majority of senior clinicians do a mixture of NHS work and private work for the likes of sports federations, insurance companies or private clinics." He added: "Yes, they do a good job, but in today's economic climate are these high salaries a responsible action?"
Health minister Jim Wells said: "I value the hard work and commitment of all health and social care staff. My priority is, and remains, the delivery of high quality, safe and effective services for patients and clients.
"Pay restraint is one of the measures implemented by this department to address the current funding gap and we are keen to discuss with stakeholders how we can make the health and social care pay system more affordable and fair."
Number of employees earning £100K plus:
*Belfast Trust - 375
*Western Trust - 163
*Southern Trust - 142
*South Eastern Trust - 137
*The Northern Trust - 30
*Northern Ireland Ambulance Service - one person.