An MP today demanded a top-level investigation over claims that ambulance chiefs have been given pay rises of up to 20 per cent while front-line staff are subjected to a pay freeze.
We can reveal that 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 leading Lancashire MP has called for an investigation and questioned the future of North West Ambulance Service chairman Mary Whyham for allowing the pay increases to be sanctioned without going through the proper process.
Lindsay Hoyle, MP for Chorley, said: “There is real anger and concern across the ambulance service. It seems that one senior manager has left his post only to find that the other three senior managers have practically divvied up his salary between them.
“This contradicts the process that is in place and is totally unacceptable. The chief executive and the chairman of the trust ought to make a full statement on how on earth this was allowed to happen.
“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 position of ambulance trust chairman Mary Whyham must be questioned and her role seems untenable in light of these revelations. I will be writing to the Secretary of State for Health outlining the anger coming from front-line staff and the outrage of my constituents.”
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: “NWAS staff are absolutely furious about this as are the unions. 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?
“We believe that the advice from NWAS’s own human resources department was that the job description for these posts would not achieve the banding which has been handed out.
“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.
“At a time of great economic hardship within the NHS and the country, it seems inconceivable that such pay awards could be sanctioned by the board of NWAS without going through the proper process.
“We want to see an investigation into this matter and we are calling on our local MPs to ask questions in the House.”
Steve Rice, branch secretary for the GMB union for the ambulance service, said: “Paramedics have been waiting seven years for their roles to be re-evaluated. Yet it seems a group of managers can get an uplift in pay with a nod of the head without going through the proper channels.
“There is a lot of anger from staff on the road who are looking at their third year of a pay freeze and an increased demand for services with no plans to put extra resources in place. There is no issue with people being paid what the job is worth. The gripe is that the proper procedures were not followed and the national job evaluation programme which every job in the NHS since 2004 has gone through was not adhered to.”
It is understood that NWAS is currently evaluating the pay bands retrospectively and hopes to have the review completed in January.
However, Bob Parkinson, branch secretary of Unite and NWAS job evaluation staff side lead, said: “No such panel has been set up, because it would have to be done with the agreement of the staff side, who take part in every panel and I can assure you that no-one from the staff will be taking part in this nonsensical retrospective panel. We strongly urge that this job evaluation is sent to a national independent panel to decide what should happen.”
NWAS today refused to answer specific questions from the Evening Post 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.”