Top NHS managers have enjoyed a pay rise three times higher than the average for the rest of the public sector, an employment research body has found.
The NHS Boardroom Pay Report 2009, published by the Incomes Data Services (IDS), has revealed that NHS trust directors received an average pay increase of 6.4% in 2008 - compared to the 2.2% pay rise for nurses, and the government's target of 2% for other public sector professions.
Since 1997 NHS chief executives have seen their average earnings increase by 98% compared to the 50% increase across the public sector as a whole.
Steve Tatton, editor of the report, said: "The earnings of NHS trust directors are continuing to move ahead at a faster pace than the rest of the economy.
"In the current climate the remuneration of NHS directors, like any top executives working in the public sector, is subject to intense public scrutiny, particularly when unease about the widening gap between senior executives and the rest of the workforce is growing in both the public and private sector."
The report also found that executive salaries within foundation trusts increased by an average of 7.6% in 2008 - with a median salary being £157,000 - while executives working for non-foundation trusts saw a 5.7% increase, with their median salary being over £24,000 lower than their foundation trust counterparts.
Steve Tatton added: "It is argued that the reorganisation of the NHS has put boards under increased pressure and this is driving above-average pay rises, with salaries increasing faster for executives within newlyestablished foundation trusts than in non-foundation trusts.
"Many PCTs view the existing pay frame as too restrictive and are increasingly breaching these salary guidelines by awarding recruitment and retention payments to boost directors' pay and ensure that they are offering competitive salary packages."
Earlier in the week, Personnel Today reported the government's confirmation that NHS staff, teachers and police officers' three year pay deals will be met in full.