Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland health agency chief is highest earner in UK: Taxpayers' Alliance

It comes as emergency departments are under increasing pressure
It comes as emergency departments are under increasing pressure

By Eimear McGovern

The head of Northern Ireland's public health agency has an annual package of over £300,000, making him the highest paid health executive in the UK, it has been revealed.

Dr Adrian Mairs, the PHA's acting director of Public Health, takes home an annual package of more than £310,000.

His total renumeration was £311,500 in 2018/19, which included a salary of more than £155,000 and an employer pension contribution of £154,000.

Dr Mairs' earnings surpass those of Public Health England director in London, Yvonne Doyle, who takes home £257,500 a year.

Details of salaries afforded to the officials were revealed by the TaxPayers' Alliance in its 'Nanny State Rich List'.

It claims the total package received by Dr Mairs is the highest in the UK "by almost £60,000".

The Public Health Agency, however, said the pension contribution figures reported by the Alliance were incorrect.

In a statement, a spokesperson said: "In addition to a gross salary of £155k-£160k, employer superannuation contributions of £20k-25k were made during the financial year 2018/19.

"The figure quoted by the Taxpayers’ Alliance as being an 'employer pension contribution' is in fact an actuarial calculation of the impact of one year’s earnings on aggregated future pension earnings – it is incorrect to call this the employer pension contribution, and is therefore inaccurate to record it as part of total earnings for the financial year.

In an earlier statement, a spokesperson said £154k figure is the calculated increase in benefit after the multiplier of 20 has been applied.

"This explanation was included on page 69 of the PHA annual accounts but is not reflected in the narrative of the Taxpayers’ Alliance report," they added.

"Individuals are entitled to make decisions about their pensions based on their personal circumstances and these may have implications for how benefits accruing are reported on the annual accounts in any given year.

"In-line with other clinical professionals, PHA medical professionals’ overall packages comprise a number of elements, including salary, pensions and NHS National Clinical Excellence Awards."

Dr Mairs is one of hundreds of public health staff who earned in excess of £100,000 in the past tax year.

Two other members of staff in Northern Ireland were named on the list of those who earn more than £100,000 a year.

They are Dr Carolyn Harper, also a director of public health for Northern Ireland, who earns £112,500 and Mary Hinds, the PHA's director of nursing and allied health professions, who earns £106,500.

Ten public health chiefs across the UK earned an average of £242,650 and two individuals earned more than £250,000.

One executive received more than £300,000.

The TaxPayers' Alliance claimed in the report that 21 senior public health employees earned more than British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s salary of £154,908.

It comes as Northern Ireland's emergency departments face huge pressure in terms of lengthening waiting lists and stretched resources.

Experts have warned that the health service in Northern Ireland has fallen off a cliff edge - just days before thousands of health workers again stage further crippling strike action.

On Wednesday, nurses from the Royal College of Nursing will stage their second day of strike action over staffing levels and pay.

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