North West ambulance chiefs have been given pay rises of up to 20 per cent while front-line staff have been subjected to a pay freeze.
Four senior managers at the North West Ambulance Service have been moved up the NHS pay band scale following a restructure – while the trust is looking for savings of around £16m.
The move has angered front-line staff and unions, who claim the extra cash has been awarded without going through the required evaluation panel, which covers all NHS staff.
Furious union chiefs blasted the move, saying it makes a mockery of the “we are all in this together” adage during these times of austerity and smacked of “heads in the trough.” They say the pay banding rise is a kick in the teeth to frontline ambulance staff, who are facing a third year of a pay freeze while struggling to cope with an increased demand in services.
One Lancashire MP has called for an investigation.
Lindsay Hoyle, MP for Chorley, said: “While the rest of the ambulance service has seen a three-year pay freeze, major financial cuts and front-line staff are struggling to cope with their increased workload, senior managers seem to be enjoying a pay day. It is time for health ministers to look into why North West Ambulance Service breached the rules set down by them.”
The North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) used to have four heads of service who were on pay band 8c, which has a top payment of £67,136. Following a restructure, there are now three heads of service – all of whom have been moved on to pay band 8d which tops off at £80,810. Another senior manager who was on band 8d being paid around £80,810 has been moved to band 9, with a top pay level of £97,478.
None of the pay band changes went through the Agenda for Change pay panels as the process demands, despite some of the rises being as much as 20 per cent.
It is claimed that internally, senior managers were told that the job description would not have achieved the new pay bandings , but they were passed by the Trust Board anyway - curcumventing the usual process.
Tony Hayes, regional officer for UNITE, said: “This is totally unacceptable on two levels.
“Firstly, we are all being asked to tighten our belts, yet some people are being given 20 per cent pay rises. Secondly, all pay band increases have to go through Agenda for Change pay review panels which affect every level of the NHS – so why didn’t these? To the rest of the world this looks like senior managers putting their heads in the trough and using vital cash which should be used to save lives.
NWAS declined to answer specific questions regarding the process by which the pay rises were given, however, Bob Williams, acting chief executive for NWAS, did confirm that the rises had gone ahead. He said: “Due to operational requirements, the trust recognised a need to restructure the roles carried out by four heads of service throughout the region.
“It was agreed at the trust board that the positions should be reduced from four posts to three but the three remaining posts would include increased responsibilities and accountability.
“Like all organisations, the trust has to restructure and reorganise from time to time and if roles expand then people need to be recompensed for that.”