Clinical Excellence Awards are essential to incentivising consultants to improve the NHS, recognise their excellence and retain their expertise in the UK.
These are the conclusions of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges in its submission to the pay review body – which is currently reviewing the CEA system on the behalf of the government.
Commenting on the national awards, the AMRC said they provide an important incentive for doctors to get involved in work which benefits the wider NHS and, without this extra work, the health system would cease to function effectively.
It said: ‘The NHS and UK medicine depends on the participation and contribution of doctors to the wider NHS, beyond their own trust, not only for its development but also for its practical functioning.
‘For example, the roles of senior doctors in the development of NICE guidelines, developing and updating the 58 specialty curricula, setting and applying professional standards through College exams, setting clinical standards or reviewing and conducting clinical research all underpin the day to day operation of the NHS. Such work is vital to the future of healthcare but would not be regarded as a priority by all trusts.’
The academy also argues that national CEAs are an important retention tool, with basic earnings being much higher in Australia and the US. It says: ‘The danger of losing high performers is greatest in academic, educational and research posts since it is in these fields that there is greatest movement between countries. Any serious erosion of the availability of national awards would risk triggering the loss of national medical excellence overseas.’
NHS Employers recently called for them to be scrapped in its submission, or the budget given to employers to control. CEAs have already been suspended in Scotland and Northern Ireland and the budget reduced in England.
However, the AMRC says there has been a ‘vast improvement’ in the operation and application of the system at local and national level over recent years.
It says: ‘Criticisms that the scheme is divisive, besides being self-evident, miss the point. Any scheme rewarding excellence on a competitive rather than a universal basis creates a division between those with and those without the reward. Equally, if the scheme is genuinely intended to reward excellence “over and above the standard expected” all doctors are not going to meet this criteria.’
Forty three per cent of consultants receive a local CEA, while 11% receive a national award.
The pay review body is due to report to the government this summer, and it’s widely anticipated it will recommend a ‘cheaper’ system, less focused on consultants.
Consultants are currently experiencing a two-year pay freeze, and the government is being lobbied over a corresponding freeze in pay increments.
See the CEA reward levels.