Nearly 30,000 NHS hospital doctors are now paid at least £100,000 a year by the cash-strapped NHS, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The number of staff on six- figure salaries has risen by a quarter in five years, according to NHS Digital, the Health Service’s official statistics body.
Doctors account for more than 90 per cent of NHS staff in the six-figure club. The number of ‘professionally qualified clinical staff’ in England with total earnings over £100,000 rose from 23,835 in 2011 to a staggering 29,776 in 2016.
In addition, 2,403 managers were also paid over £100,000 last year, as were 80 people described as working in administration.
Their lavish pay contrasts with the majority of NHS salaries. Nurses and midwives earn £31,000 on average, and maintenance staff earn £17,000.
Last night, Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb said: ‘It’s a disturbing trend given the extent to which pay rates at lower levels in the NHS are being so heavily constrained through the one per cent cap.
‘I suspect there will be a sense of injustice for many that wage rates at the top appear to be increasing significantly.’
The figures mean that two-thirds of England’s 44,000 consultants now earn more than £100,000. Most do not earn that in salary alone: their pay scale starts at £76,761, and only those who have served 19 years as a consultant earn more than £100,000 in basic pay.
Ministers want to review the NHS consultants’ contract and change the pay structure
However, they can rake in huge sums working overtime and from clinical excellence awards – bonuses meant to recognise medical or scientific contributions above and beyond the norm.
But critics argue the bonuses are arbitrary, overly generous, and much more likely to be given to men than women.
In February, it emerged that a consultant at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals in Preston earned £84,000 in basic pay – but a further £456,000 in overtime. He also received a £35,700 clinical excellence award and £2,990 for being on call, taking his total pay to more than £575,000.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘No one begrudges paying doctors and nurses well for the tough jobs that they do. But pay increases must be linked to performance and not paid out as a matter of course. NHS bosses need to make sure that they not using taxpayers’ money to reward failure.’
A recent study found that just over half of England’s consultants now receive a bonus of at least £17,000, with some receiving the top level award of £77,000. But of 252 new awards made in 2015, only 65 went to women.
Ministers want to review the NHS consultants’ contract and change the pay structure. They want to stop automatic rises for ‘time served’ and curtail the clinical excellence awards. Despite the name, these awards are not one-off payments. Once granted, doctors usually get the bonuses every year until they retire.
But after the bruising encounter with junior doctors over pay and conditions, the Government is wary of picking another fight with the medical profession.