nhsMore than 7,800 hospital managers and consultants in the NHS were on salaries worth more than £100,000 last year, it has been claimed.

The findings come at the same time that the Royal College of Nursing warned that nursing staff levels were dangerously low and there were serious doubts about the national health service’s ability to save the £20bn demanded of it by the coalition government.

Around a third of NHS managers and consultants earned more than the Prime Minister who is on £142,500, and 11 were paid more than £250,000, according to a survey by the Daily Telegraph which concluded that total pay in this area had gone up in the last three years to nearly £1bn. The figure could be much higher since many trusts did not respond to the survey.

At one stage, 85 staff at the failing Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust were paid over £100,000 and the trust’s interim finance director got £340,000. One consultant was paid £280,000 and when the chief executive resigned he got a £225,000 pay-off.

Also, the University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust – which had 384 staff on more than £100,000 – was considered by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to have such low staff levels that patients were being put at risk. And at Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, where police are looking into the level of baby deaths, 121 staff get more than £100,000.

The Department of Health said: “Many of these staff are senior consultants and their pay reflects responsibilities and clinical skills. However, pay restraint is essential right across the public sector, and the NHS cannot be exempt from that. We have cut spending on managers and back office administration costs, and the number of admin staff has fallen by over 18,000.”