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Editor’s blog Monday 20 September 2010: Sorting out the problem of NHS staff out-earning the Prime Minister

Tonight's BBC Panorama investigation, in collaboration with the Bureau For Investigative Journalism, has revealed that people who work in the public sector can earn more than the Prime Minister.

This is not a surprise to seasoned watchers of the public sector. Nor indeed to readers of the Daily Mail.

Rather, it is an illuminated Psalm in the Book Of Things That Are Not Surprising.

Their investigation finds that "The NHS contains the highest number of staff earning over £100,000 in any part of the public sector, over 26,000. Nearly 6,500 NHS employees are paid more than the prime minister (£142,500) - 1,465 of them are GPs". It found a GP earning £475,000, and that 7 of the NHS Top 10 are GPs.

Again, no surprise to policywatchers. If you pay GPs more to do more things (dispensing practice,minor surgery, out-of-hours), they will do them, thank-you-very-much, ching-ching. The same is true of consultants. The same would be true of us all, were we given the chance.

Their NHS analysis bit is here; the central government figures here; the NHS figures here; and the GP figures here. Disappointingly, the NHS quangos don't make the Top Ten. Poor show!

Data fiends can get the raw material in an Excel file
But doesn't the public sector have to compete with the private sector for a finite amount of leadership talent?  I've always understood that to be the doctrinal position over big salaries.

Still, it is always intriguing to see a Conservative argue for a wages policy - almost as amusing as watching Mail editor Paul Dacre doing it.

Resolving the Cameron conundrum
Perhaps in a Big Society, the leaders of public services should not really need the money. Noblesse oblige, and all that. Of course, you might then get a fairly limited cadre of potential leaders, who might be very prone to the kind of group-think that put the international financial industry into such a strong position these past few years.

But really, I think the solution is clear. David Cameron is clearly earning so little because he's not a very good Prime Minister, and he can't be worth more. If he were, surely he would be off earning it. That is the law of the market, no?

No, what we need to do is cast around for a Prime Minister who can command a bigger salary. A mighty salary. Something worthy of respect.