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Pay deal may lead to band 9s being paid more than senior managers

Published on: 17 Mar 2023

The pay offer made to NHS staff on the Agenda for Change payscale by government yesterday could see an increasing number of senior leaders paid less than the staff they manage, the managers’ union has warned.

The government this week offered AfC staff a 5 per cent pay rise for 2023-24. However, pay for very senior managers is set separately by the Senior Salaries Review Body and has been held down in recent years. This has meant more band 9 staff – the highest level on the AfC pay scale – are catching up or even overtaking their bosses as their pay grows at a faster rate.

The chief executive of NHS union Managers in Partnership Jon Restell welcomed Thursday’s offer for AfC staff, which he said came after “a series of low awards” in previous years.

However, he added: “The government must also consider how this will impact existing pay overlap anomalies with AfC band 9 and some [on the] very senior manager [pay] grade.

“MiP were pleased that the SSRB took on board our evidence on this issue last year, with 0.5 per cent of the total pay bill set aside to begin addressing the pay disparity. Without further action on very senior manager/executive senior manager pay, it is likely that this situation will worsen in the 2023-24 financial year.”

“The SRRB must carefully consider how the AfC pay offer will impact already prevalent recruitment and retention difficulties for executive and very senior managers and reflect this in their recommendations to government.”

After the 5 per cent increase for 2023-24, the best paid band nine staff member would receive £114,948. NHS England guidance shows that many directors of community or ambulance trusts, as well as smaller acute and mental health trusts, are paid below this level.

One HSJ commenter said the pay award was “completely silent on VSM and from what I can tell the top of band 9 will now be higher than many VSM roles… in my organisation we are close to directors being paid less than the band 9s they are managing!”

Another said: “Some band 9s earn more than VSMs yet you can bet this deal will exclude VSMs again and subject them to the whims of their Rem Co’s [remuneration committees].”

The health and social care secretary has asked the Senior Salaries Review Body to publish its 2023-24 pay recommendations for very senior managers in May.

In the letter, Steve Barclay said it was “particularly important” that the recommendations took into account the government’s inflation target, which is 2 per cent.

Department of Health and Social Care evidence to the expert board pay for senior leaders “cannot be seen in isolation” from the financial pressures facing the rest of the system and any increase would have to be met out of existing budgets.

The SSRB has previously flagged concerns at “further distortions in relativities being created by continually depressing the pay of senior leaders”.

In last year’s report it called for a pay rise of three per cent for very senior managers alongside an extra 0.5 per cent to tackle the “erosion of the differential with the top of AfC band 9 (which was exacerbated yet further last year because of the zero pay increase for senior leaders)”.