BIGGER bonuses handed out to hospital executives have been labelled “absolutely crazy” in the midst of planned cutbacks by the organisation.

Bonus payments totalling £119,243 were paid to eight directors at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust (OUHT) last year – a rise of 61 per cent on the £74,067 given out the year before.

It comes as the trust moves to save £160m over four years, including £2.5m in job cuts. The trust said the performance-related payments are in line with other trusts and are only paid if results are achieved.

But last night critics urged the directors to give the cash back as a “gesture” to struggling staff. An Oxford nurse, who asked not to be named, said: “It is not fair. Nurses are working too hard and not getting paid enough.”

Jacquie Pearce-Gervis, chairman of Oxfordshire-based watchdog Patient Voice, said: “When cuts are being made it seems absolutely crazy to give them these payments.

“They should forego their bonuses. That would be a very nice gesture.”

Royston Sugden, a carpenter for the trust for 46 years before retiring in 2011, said the payments were “a kick in the teeth”.

Victoria Couling, Royal College of Nurses officer for Oxfordshire, said it would send a “really powerful message” if managers decided to give up their bonuses.

Trust directors can expect the bonuses as part of their salaries unless they fail to meet targets. Last year they lost 12.5 per cent from the bonus pot because bed blocking and A&E waiting times targets were missed.

While all staff were on a pay freeze last year, those earning less than £21,000 were given a one-off payment of £250 in April last year.

All employees received a one per cent rise this year.

Executives are not subject to the same contracts as most NHS staff and so are not subject to the freeze.

Last year, the 16 executives’ pay totalled £1.29m and two of them received pay rises of at least £5,000. The figure also rose from £1.27m the year before – 2011/12 – because two directors were appointed in May 2011 and were therefore not paid a full year’s salary.

When the Oxford Mail asked for details of the targets the directors met for their bonuses, OUHT referred us to a list of objectives including “delivering compassionate excellence”, “delivering better value healthcare” and “becoming a resilient, flexible and successful organistation”. The trust was unable to give details of bonus and salary payments for each director or explain why two directors were given pay rises. Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “Hospitals are complex organisations and you need to be able to recruit and retain good managers.”

OUHT Statement

OUHT chairman Dame Fiona Caldicott defended the bonus payments. She said: “Oxford University Hospitals is one of the largest trusts in the country with 11,000 staff and an annual turnover of more than £822m.

“The performance related payments to the executive directors reflect the level of performance achieved by these individuals set within a challenging agenda of improvement over the last three years.

“The total salaries of our executive directors, including the entire pay-related performance, if awarded, are in line with benchmark salaries for similar NHS Trusts.

“We take independent HR advice on good practice in setting terms and conditions in the public sector, including making comparisons with salaries in NHS Trusts of a similar scale to ours.

“We are not out of line. We choose to give part of the directors’ remuneration as pay-related performance in order to link pay to performance.

“The executive directors have performed extremely well during a period of unprecedented change in the NHS and the performance-related payments reflect the achievement of the team’s corporate objectives.”