Northern Ireland

Managing NI health and social care trusts costs £120m

The cost of managing Northern Ireland's Health and Social Care Trusts has risen to £120m in the past year.

A report commissioned by the assembly's health committee has revealed the number of management posts within each trust and their salaries.

Within the Belfast Trust, two of the highest earners took home pay packets of up to £195,000.

The committee's chairman, Jim Wells, described the salaries as "jaw dropping".

When the report was carried out the then Chief Executive of the Belfast Trust William McKee, earned up to £150,000 and medical director, Dr Tony Stevens had a salary of up to £195,000.

Salaries

There are a further four executive directors whose salaries range from £30,000 to potentially £110,000.

The next band down includes a further eight directors. In total, 14 senior managers and a chairman with seven non-executive directors and that is in just one trust.

The chairman of the health committee, Jim Wells, said it is clearly wrong.

"In these times, when front line health workers are desperately trying to find the money to provide essential care these figures are clearly wrong and shocking," he said.

"Does it really take so many senior managers and on such significant salaries to run a trust? These figures are jaw dropping."

On Thursday, John Compton, the Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Board, said that "a small number of people earn that amount of money".

"We're talking about organisations which spend in excess of £500m per annum."

He added that "we cannot recruit to senior jobs."

"They are strenuous jobs, they are demanding jobs and they do require to be remunerated in that way."

The research, which was commissioned by the assembly's health committee, examined whether there are too many managers in the five health trusts as opposed to front line staff who are delivering care.

In April 2007, attempts were made under the Review of Public Administration to make the running of the health service more efficient.

The number of health trusts was cut from 18 to five. About 1,700 executive, managerial and clerical level posts across both professional and administrative departments were targeted, allowing about £50m to be invested each year to help improve the service.

Consultants

Two years later, however, several new health bodies were established, including the new Health and Social Care board, the Business Services Organisation, the Public Health Agency and the Patient and Client Council.

While more than £5m worth of savings were made initially, in the past year the total trusts' management costs have risen again to £120m.

The research highlights that while some consultants have moved to managerial positions, there are those continuing to be paid a consultant's salary.

In a climate of austerity, the report's findings will hardly be welcomed by front line health workers trying to provide essential care.