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Colchester Hospital chief’s pay approved by ministers despite being more than David Cameron’s salary

Colchester Hospital University Foundation NHS Trust chief executive Frank Sims.

Colchester Hospital University Foundation NHS Trust chief executive Frank Sims.

Government ministers had to sign off the salary for Colchester Hospital’s new chief executive after it emerged he would be paid more than the Prime Minister.

Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust is one of 15 NHS organisations to have requested approval to pay a director more than David Cameron’s £142,500 annual salary after a Westminster shake-up last summer. Frank Sims, who took over the trust in October, is paid £185,000 per year.

But last night one of the county’s most senior MPs pledged his full support to both Mr Sims and the size of his salary.

Bernard Jenkin, MP for Harwich and North Essex, said: “We desperately need the best person for the job and he is very good.

“The best NHS leaders could earn much more in the private sector and if we want the best, we should be prepared to pay top management salaries.

“This is a problem across the whole of the civil service where too many good people leave because they can get much better pay, and the public service suffers as a result.

“In terms of the importance of this role, and the lives and resources which are under his care, the vast majority of people want to know we have got the best person for the job.

“The whole board has changed. There is a new chairman (Alan Rose) and for the first time in three years all the top leadership posts are filled with permanent appointees.

“We have the strongest in team in charge of that hospital than we have had for many years and Frank Sims must be given a chance to save our hospital. I think there are huge challenges but I am confident he can succeed.”

The 14 other trusts forced to seek government approval for director’s salaries since the edict included the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals Foundation Trust, a Health Service Journal investigation found.

A Colchester Hospital spokesman said it is not unusual for an NHS trust board member to receive a salary in excess of the PM’s wage.

The hospital’s previous interim chief executive, Dr Lucy Moore, received £285-290,000 for 10 months’ work, while the last permanent chief executive Dr Gordon Coutts was paid £160-165,000 for his final full year (2012/13).

The spokesman said: “Before reaching the figure for Frank Sims, the trust benchmarked against the salaries paid to chief executives of NHS foundation trusts of similar size and complexity.

“This salary reflects the need to attract especially strong candidates to take up the significant and challenging role of leading a trust in special measures, and the high degree of career uncertainty that comes with such a commitment.

“Mr Sims also receives pension contributions in line with the standard NHS pension scheme.

“This salary was approved by this trust’s board of directors, Monitor and the Treasury.”

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote to NHS trusts last June requesting that all foundation trusts and clinical commissioning groups sought ministerial approval, through the health service financial watchdog Monitor and NHS England, for such appointments. In his letter he said more than one-fifth of all directors were paid more than the benchmark.

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