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From The Sunday Times

November 30, 2008

Revealed: NHS nurse who earns £100,000

Sarah-Kate Templeton, Health Editor

 

AN NHS nurse has broken the £100,000 barrier for the first time as health staff cash in on generous incentive schemes.

 

The nurse consultant in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, has doubled her basic salary of £50,000 by working overtime under an NHS initiative to bring down waiting lists.

 

On this rate she would be hit by the tax raid launched by Alistair Darling against high earners – a startling indication of how public-sector workers have prospered under Labour.

 

Figures obtained by The Sunday Times under the Freedom of Information Act suggest dozens of NHS nurses now earn more than £60,000 a year.

 

The incomes of hospital doctors have also rocketed, with many consultants’ NHS earnings exceeding £200,000.

 

One consultant at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust was paid between £225,000 and £229,000 in the last financial year. A consultant at Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manches-ter, earned £228,000.

 

Consultants’ basic salaries are being boosted by bonuses, or clinical excellence awards, and by payments to bring down waiting lists. One doctor at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust was paid an extra £50,000 in the last financial year to help cut waiting times. Labour has promised to meet a waiting-times target of 18 weeks by the end of December.

 

There are no set national overtime rates. They are negotiated between trusts and their nurses and doctors, and are not publicly available.

 

The generous payments are controversial at a time of economic hardship. The health department has already been accused of awarding unduly generous new contracts to NHS employees without achieving better treatment for patients.

 

A recent report by the Commons public accounts committee found that a new contract for hospital consultants boosted their pay by 27% without any measurable improvements in productivity.

 

The disclosure of nurses’ true incomes challenges the perception that they are all poorly paid. Last month the Royal College of Nursing, a nurses’ union, claimed members were struggling to make ends meet. An appeal was launched last year to ask Premier League foot-ballers to donate a day’s pay to a fund for impoverished nurses.

 

The nurse who earned between £100,000 and £105,000 in the last financial year is a “nurse consultant”, one of the top grades of the profession, employed by the Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust.

 

The NHS employs more than 800 nurse consultants in England. Their roles can range from running clinic sessions advising patients on how to manage conditions such as diabetes, to performing minor surgery to remove cysts and moles. They also carry out research.

 

A newsletter published by the Rotherham trust last year said it had four nurses on this grade. It featured one nurse consultant, Julie D’Silva, who carries out endoscopies - internal examinations often inside the stomach.

 

In another issue D’Silva spoke about her contribution to cutting down the waiting list: “We have put in a great deal of effort to deliver the best service we can to the people of Rotherham. However, we don’t want to stop there and we hope that in time we will manage to get waiting times down even more.”

 

This weekend the trust said that for reasons of privacy neither it nor D’Silva would confirm whether she was the nurse who had earned in excess of £100,000.

 

A spokesman defended the extra payments: “The trust is very clear that these payments represent good value for money with real and tangible benefits to patients.”

 

A full-time nurse consultant normally works about 37.5 hours per week. Under the European working time directive, nurses should not do more than 48 hours a week. The trust declined to disclose how many extra hours the nurse was working for her additional £50,000.

 

The FOI returns show many nurses have annual incomes in excess of £60,000. A nurse at Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust had an income of £71,000, while a nurse at Sand-well and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust earned £61,000.

 

Official figures for September 2008 show NHS nurses had an average annual income, including overtime, of £31,600, while the average consultant salary was £119,200.

 

The British Medical Association, the doctors’ union, advises members they can max-imise extra NHS payments if there is no competition from private firms in the area. Consultants are estimated to be paid £600-£900 for four-hour shifts to cut waiting lists.

 

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