The wrong fatcats


Kenneth Roy

Now that the media in general are finally catching up with a national scandal first exposed by the Scottish Review as long ago as last autumn, they are not getting it quite right.

Kenneth Roy

Now that the media in general are finally catching up with a national scandal first exposed by the Scottish Review as long ago as last autumn, they are not getting it quite right. There is an assumption in this week’s coverage of fatcat salaries in the National Health Service – including Channel 4 News’s treatment of it a couple of nights ago – that the highest paid people in the NHS, the true villains of the piece, are the chief executives. Well, you would think so, wouldn’t you? They are the chief executives, after all.
     But the media are going for the wrong fatcats. They are looking no further than the obvious. The serious money, my friends, is being made elsewhere.

For an illustration of what I mean, let us penetrate the darker reaches of NHS Tayside’s latest annual report. There you will find that the chief executive, Professor W J Wells, earned £170,000 in the financial year 2008-09. Like all the others, his salary is stated in bands of £5,000 – £165,000 to £170,000 in his case – but, being somewhat mean-spirited in this matter, I propose to assume that the higher figure is correct.
     Professor Wells isn’t doing too badly. The prime minister himself earns only £27,000 more, and he’s allegedly running a whole country. But the director of public health, Dr Drew Walker, is doing rather better. He is on £175,000.
     Even Dr Walker is entitled to consider himself an under-privileged citizen compared to the medical director, Dr Bill Mutch, whose final salary before his recent retirement – please sit down and make yourself comfortable – amounted to £245,000. Under this jaw-dropping figure there is a small note of clarification. Dr Mutch’s figure includes ‘arrears of pay and mangement fees relating to previous financial years’. Setting aside the undisclosed arrears, we have the surprising news that the medical director, in addition to his whopping salary, was also entitled to management fees. What on earth was that about?
     Perhaps we shall never know. Dr Mutch has gone – taking with him an annual pension of £100,000.

At NHS Lanarkshire, the chief executive, Tim Davison, earns £180,000, a shade ahead of his counterpart in Tayside. But, again, he is far from being the highest-paid person in his organisation. Dr Dorothy Moir, the director of public health, was paid £120,000 for the final seven months of her employment – her pension is ‘not available’ according to the annual report – and her successor, Dr Harpreet Kohli, picked up £80,000 in his first five months with the board. This seems to indicate that the post is worth around £200,000. Meanwhile, the medical director, Dr Alison Graham, is on £205,000.
     So there are two people employed by NHS Lanarkshire – one little health board among so many – earning more than the prime minister. Indeed the generosity of this board is bordering on the fabulous. Eleven executives are on six-figure salaries, including the nurse director, Paul Wilson, whose £125,000 a year is four and a half times the annual earnings of an experienced nurse (£27,500).

The highest-earning Scottish chief executive I have been able to identify is Professor James Barbour at NHS Lothian on £200,000, £3,000 more than Gordon Brown. But the same pattern prevails here: even the highest-earning chief executive is gettting less than someone else on the payroll, in this case the medical director, Dr Charles Swainson, on £230,000.

The most yawning gulf is to be found at NHS Ayrshire and Arran, one of the smaller boards. The £150,000 salary of its chief executive, Wai-yin Hatton, is £90,000 less than the spectacular remuneration of medical director Dr Rob Masterton, whose £240,000 makes him the highest-paid person in the NHS in Scotland now that his main rival, Dr Mutch of Tayside, has left.

All over the country it is the same story. If the media believe that chief executives’ pay is generous to a fault, they ought to be digging a little deeper. At NHS Grampian, the £145,000 earned by Richard Carey is dwarfed by medical director Dr Roelf Dijkhuizen’s £190,000 (including arrears) and public health director Dr Lesley Wilkie’s £160,000.
     At NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (the largest board of the lot), the chief executive, Robert Calderwood, is paid £25,000 a year less than the medical director, Dr Brian Cowan, who earns £190,000. And, for a lovely piece of island whimsy, try Shetland, where the chief executive, Sandra Laurenson, is on a banding £60,000 lower than that of the medical director, Dr Ken Graham.
The executives who weigh their money in the NHS tend to be doctors; and the media are often wary of attacking doctors unless there is some compelling reason for doing so. Usually someone has to die first. The administrators are easier targets; they are only administrators after all.      But, next time you see those fatcat chief executives being excoriated in the press, it is worth remembering that very much bigger bucks are being paid to others sitting around the same board table.

Read Kenneth Roy in the Scottish Review – click here.