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‘Sack poor NHS managers’, says new government adviser

Published on: 3 Oct 2022

An MP who has just become a ministerial assistant in the Department of Health and Social Care has called for ‘underperforming’ NHS managers to be ‘sacked’, claiming some executives in the health service earn up to £500,000 per year.

James Sunderland, who was made a Department of Health and Social Care parliamentary private secretary just days ago, told a Conservative party conference fringe event that money spent on executives should be reinvested into the coal face.

Mr Sunderland, MP for Bracknell since 2019, also said the NHS is “better funded now than at any time in its history”.

He said: “The solution is not more money, it’s better managers. We need to get to grips with the senior management of the NHS. People not performing need to be sacked.

“We need to reinvest money spent on executives and management into the coalface. It’s about efficiency in how we do business.”

The role of a parliamentary private secretary is to work closely with ministers to assist them in their work, particularly representing the department in Parliament.

Mr Sunderland claimed some executives are being paid £500,000, which he said “is absolutely ridiculous”.

It is unclear whom he was referring to, because no substantive NHS executives, whose pay must be declared each year in annual accounts, have earned salaries approaching £500,000.

Some management consultancy firms and interim managers are thought to have been paid day-rates reflecting that level of annual salary, although the most recent known examples of this have been at Test and Trace, which was run by the DHSC and has now become the UK Health Security Agency.  

CEOs of the largest trusts, who are also doctors, reported salaries under £300,000 in 2021-22.

At Imperial College Healthcare, Professor Tim Orchard had a salary of £270-275,000, plus bonus of £15-20,000 and “pension related benefits” of £192.5-195,000 — giving a total remuneration of £480-485,000. This was a lot higher than most CEOs.

NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard was paid a salary of £255-£260,000 in 2020-21.

Former social care minister Helen Whateley, also on the panel, had earlier urged caution on talk of cutting NHS managers, saying the service “needs to run well”.