NHS Western Isles manager earns more than Prime Minister

by Michelle Robson

A SENIOR manager at NHS Western Isles earns more than the Prime Minister and is one of the most highly paid board directors in Scotland.

The Director at the island board, which provides for just 26,000 people, earns up to £195,000 plus benefits - a cost of around £7 per island resident.

This compares to David Cameron’s salary of just under £150,000 for running the country.

It is also around £40,000 more than the salary for the same post at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which is the largest board in Scotland.

NHS Western Isles forks out nearly £2million in annual salaries to its 19 top earners who all take home over £100,000. Seventeen are medical staff and two are senior managers. It was also revealed this week that the administration costs for NHS Western Isles have risen by £1,703,000 from £6,539,000 to £8,242,000 – an increase of 26% in the past year, following an increase of 18% the previous year.

At a time when the public sector is attempting to cut costs and NHS Western Isles is trying to shave millions of its budgets, the revelations have caused concern.

When the Gazette asked who was responsible for setting the salaries, neither the Health Board nor the Scottish Government seemed to claim responsibility.

Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant, who has been involved in the campaign to secure an MS Nurse for the Western Isles, says the salary of the highest paid director could employ seven more nurses.

Said Mrs Grant: “The health board need to look at their top line salaries when seeking to make savings. In order to make sure that frontline services are protected and developed, health boards need to think very seriously about how they spend their money.

“For a salary of nearly £200,000 they could employ at least seven nurses. The health board needs to decide whether that is good value for money.”

A spokesperson for NHS Western Isles confirmed that 19 staff earned over £100,000 but would not comment on individual packages. She added that they were now liaising with auditors regarding an audit on the existing arrangements.

All Health Board Chairs throughout Scotland received a letter from Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, earlier this month asking them to confirm the pay policies for all staff earning over £100,000 had been properly applied and reminding them that they must exercise restraint in the use of public money.

Said a spokesperson for NHS Western Isles: “It is not appropriate to comment on the salaries of individual staff, all of which are agreed under national terms and conditions.

“Staff are paid in accordance with the nationally agreed pay rates, with the appropriate checks being made on appointment. In response to recent correspondence from the Cabinet Secretary, we are liaising with our auditors regarding an audit of relevant existing arrangements.”

She pointed out that the salary scales for Directors were set by the Scottish Government.

“The remuneration and conditions of service for Hospital Medical and Dental Staff and Doctors and Dentists in Public Health Medicine and the Community Health Service are approved by Scottish Ministers under the National Health Service (Remuneration and Conditions of Service) (Scotland) Regulations.

“Any amendments would be subject to negotiation by the appropriate negotiating bodies and would have to be approved by Scottish Ministers.

“SGHD set the salary scale, and where staff are placed on the scale is prescribed under the Terms and Conditions of Service for Hospital Medical and Dental Staff and Doctors and Dentists in Public Health Medicine and the Community Health Service (Scotland). This is dependent on specific information, such as previous experience.”

The Gazette asked the Scottish Government why particular posts attracted such high salaries and a spokesperson said that information would be available from NHS Western Isles.

NHS Western Isles stress that remuneration and conditions of service are set by the Scottish Government.

Commenting on the Western Isles situation, local MSP Alasdair Allan said some of the highest earners were likely to be senior medical staff who contracts were predominantly signed by the previous Scottish Executive.

He said: “While the Scottish Government cannot now break these contracts, it does exercise restraint with new ones, in light of the tough times we are in.  The Scottish Government will now suspend bonuses in all areas the Government controls, and freeze distinction awards in NHS, while protecting frontline NHS spending.”

He added: “More generally, the Scottish Government has recognised the need for pay restraint, freezing ministerial pay for a second year and senior civil servants’ pay is being frozen in 2010-11.  

“Uniquely in the United Kingdom, in 2009-10 and again this year, Scotland has asked the chief executives of public bodies to waive any bonuses to which they might be entitled.

“In the draft budget, the Scottish Government has  announced a 10 per cent cut in senior civil service salaries pay bill in 2011-12 and 25 per cent over the next four years.  MSPs salaries and expenses will also be frozen.”

Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands Mary Scanlon said this week it was the responsibility of health boards to set salaries.

She also highlighted that while some boards had reduced their administration funds, others like NHS Western Isles had seen costs rise.

Said Ms Scanlon: “Firstly NHS Grampian and NHS Borders have reduced their administration costs by £3 million and £1 million respectively.  NHS Orkney has also reduced admin costs by £300,000.  The Director’s salary costs every person in the Western Isles around £7.30 per year.”

She added: “It is NHS Western Isles who determine the salaries of Directors – in line with national scales. Good admin and management are essential to run an effective and efficient service.  However, the increase in bureaucracy costs in the last year certainly shows no sign of efficiency savings or indeed any priority being given to front line NHS care.”

Cabinet Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the increase in some boards was due to changes in the way the administrative costs had been collected and that the main change related to the inclusion in 2008/09 of the Board’s health promotion and health education functions which previously were excluded.

A spokesperson for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar confirmed that they did not have any staff earning over £100,000.

Compared to £185-195k pay packet of the Western Isles Director, other comparable positions across Scotland are as follows:

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Director earned £147,395 as of March 2010

NHS Highland Director earns between £155-160k.

NHS Orkney does not currently have a dedicated Director in this field and are covered by the NHS Grampian Director who earned £155-160k in 2008/09. In the accounts to March 2010 for NHS Orkney, this director was paid £20-25k for their services.