The Times newspaper has attempted to reignite the debate on charity pay with an article that criticised hospices for paying high salaries to their most senior employees while relying on volunteers.
The newspaper looked at 250 hospices in England and Wales. It's article, published today, said MPs and campaigners were "horrified" to find that the 82 of these that paid any member of staff more than £60,000 spent up to 7p of every £1 of income on these top earners.
Hospice UK, the hospice membership body, criticised the article, saying high salaries were necessary to attract and retain the highest calibre of staff.
The Times mentioned three hospices that it said were among those spending the highest proportion of funds on pay for senior managers.
These were: St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds, which according to The Times spends at least 6.5 per cent of its £9.7m income on seven staff earning more than £60,000; Myton Hospices in Warwickshire, which according to the newspaper spends at least 6.6 per cent of its £10.6m income on eight staff; and Thames Hospice in Windsor, which the newspaper said spends 5.4 per cent of £5.4m on four staff.
The three hospices defended themselves, saying their salaries were competitive, in line with similar organisations and necessary to attract high-quality staff.
A spokeswoman for Hospice UK told Third Sector: "Senior hospice staff are responsible for the provision of expert care to hundreds of thousands of terminally ill and dying people and their families each year and leading a complex range of services to support them.
"It is important to attract and retain the highest calibre of staff to lead and deliver these services."
She said that hospices required "highly skilled clinical staff" and usually based salaries on NHS pay scales.
Writing in a blog for Third Sector yesterday, the academic John Mohan warned that it might not "be sensible to pose the question purely in terms of the proportion of income paid to senior staff".
He said: "Some of the smaller hospices spend less than £2m a year, but they may well employ specialist medical staff.
"Of course, they will have to pay the going rate for those staff – unless you want to return to the pre-NHS era, when individual consultants gave free care to the poor, cross-subsidised by their income from private patients.
"It wouldn’t be a surprise in those circumstances to see that the salary of the highest-paid staff member alone accounted for 2 per cent or more of the charity’s income.
"And many other charities have a relatively small budget but, given the nature of what they do, have to employ people capable of operating at a high level."