Hunt warns against ‘BBC-style culture of excessive pay’
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has signalled that he is to clamp down on top-level salaries in the NHS.
He warned that the health service risked losing public support if it adopted a “culture of excessive pay and payoffs”, similar to that which has been under scrutiny at the BBC.
The health secretary said the NHS needed a “collective reality check” to ensure it did not end up in a situation “where very high pay is normalised”.
Hunt made his stark comments in a letter to the heads of eight NHS ‘quangos’, including the Care Quality Commission and Health Care England. Currently, 48 senior executives in these arm’s length organisations earn more than the prime minister’s salary of £142,500.
Hunt is considering a cap on the number of managers in NHS quangos earning more than £100,000, along with an £80,000 limit to the maximum pay level on which redundancy packages can be calculated.
There could also be a “claw back” of redundancy payments from quango managers who move to another NHS job within one year of leaving their position, up from the current timescale of 28 days.
In his letter, seen by the The Telegraph, Hunt wrote: “I do not want the NHS to make the same mistakes as the BBC, where a culture of excessive pay and pay-offs was tolerated for too long and damaged public confidence in one of our great national institutions.”
Hunt added that while some high salaries were justified, they must be “the exception not the rule”.
In 2012, nearly 8,000 NHS hospital managers and consultants were paid six-figure salaries. The health secretary has no power to limit pay levels in hospital trusts but hopes that a culture of pay restraint elsewhere in the health service could be mirrored in those organisations.
Meanwhile, pay review bodies in the NHS are still considering whether to award a 1 per cent rise to all staff next year. Unions have been critical of suggestions that salaries should be frozen and that incremental pay scales should be revised.