Hospital Dr News

No CEAs for Northern Irish doctors this year

This year’s round of Clinical Excellence Awards is to be scrapped in Northern Ireland despite having already been launched, a leaked letter reveals.

A letter from the head of human resources at the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to the chairmen and chief executives of NHS trusts in Northern Ireland says: ‘It has been decided that no new Clinical Excellence Awards will be made in the 2010-2011 awards round. This decision applies to both higher and lower awards.’

Diane Taylor blames the suspension on the ‘additional budgetary pressures of the Comprehensive Spending Review’ and suggests it is consistent with the government’s two-year pay freeze for public sector workers earning more than £21,000 per annum.

It has raised fears that the 2010/2011 round of CEAs will be scrapped across the UK. This was denied by a spokesperson for the Department of Health in England, who said it was still ‘examining’ the system.

In the summer, the health secretary Andrew Lansley launched a review into the CEA system across the UK with a view to making them more ‘affordable’. It’s being led by the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration and will report by July 2011.

The government has already sought to reduce the number CEAs handed out to doctors in the 2011 round prior to the review’s findings.

In the draft guides for the 2011 round of CEAs from the Advisory Committee on Clinical Excellence Awards, the government agency that administers them, the ratio used to calculate the minimum level of investment for employer based awards has been reduced from 0.35 to 0.2 per eligible consultant.

It’s a controversial U-turn by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland seeing as the 2010/2011 process had already been launched. The letter acknowledges that the Awards round was initiated in June, and that ‘self nominations and citations have been received in respect of applicants for higher awards (steps 9-12)’.

Commenting on the developments, Stephen Campion, chief executive of the HCSA, said: “The decision to withhold both local and national CEA payments in Northern Ireland makes a mockery of the Secretary of State’s position in two key respects.

“Firstly, it ignores the fact that he has referred the CEA system for review. Just what is the point of him inviting the DDRB to conduct a review when such unilateral decisions are imposed?

“Secondly, it begs the question as to whether he really does want clinicians to be engaged in the interests of the wider NHS. It ignores the fact that trusts are increasingly refusing to recognise activities such as teaching, research, development of professional standards through their royal college and so on as part of their agreed job plans. Trusts have consistently said that this must be only recognised through the CEA system. Does the Secretary of State now want this to stop?”

Letter author Taylor also advises trust chairmen and chief executives that existing award holders will retain remuneration at the appropriate award level but the ‘five year review process will be carried out as normal this year’.

Consultants on higher awards have to demonstrate on a five yearly basis that the work done since the original award continues at a standard which fully meets the criteria.

Campion added: “Consultants are, quite rightly, feeling very angry, as much by the approach as the decision itself. The denial of proper recognition for those consultants who have already worked way over and above their contracts and job plans is unacceptable. Many will be thinking why bother?”

There has been adverse media coverage of CEAs recently, with some claiming that they are unjustifiable.

How much is a CEA worth?

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3 Responses to “No CEAs for Northern Irish doctors this year”

  1. chrissa says:

    all work above and beyond contractual obligations should be done on a locum basis via a carefully chosen agency. those who did the work for nothing but the vague promise of some “excellence award” now get what their naivity deserves.

  2. Bob Bury says:

    You haven’t got an award, then, Chrissa?

    I don’t think there are many locum agencies that supply doctors to perform the sort of research at local level and unpaid but vital work at national level which has historically been rewarded through this system. You may think it’s a bad system, but if the UK wants to retain a medical research infrastructure, and if the government wants clinicians to spend many hours of unpaid time on their working parties implementing European legislation on (to quote just one example of which I’m aware) radiation protection, then ways will have to be found to reward that input. And of course there are many other examples of work which is unpaid, but which has historically been done because there was at least a chance of an award.

    If awards cease, then the government will be as surprised and dismayed by the results as they were when they introduced the new contract to ‘make’ us work 40 hours a week, and we all said ‘OK – what do you want us to stop doing then?’ The result on that occasion was that they had to pay us a lot more money to do the same work we had been doing previously. If all the unpaid input currently performed in the (‘naive’ – sic) hope of an eventual award stops, the results will be disastrous.

    The sort of work ‘above and beyond contractual obligations’ which you suggest should be done on a locum basis is already well-rewarded by additional PAs or waiting list initiatives etc., and your suggestion is an example of the uninformed posturing we have become used to from you on DNUK.

  3. chrissa says:

    bob bury,
    where did i say that the award system is a bad system?!? it is a fabulous system – for the employers. as for calling my post “uninformed” – i have become used to personal attacks from people who are unable to prove me wrong about the facts. you actually confirmed what i said when you spoke “on topic”: that dangling the “chance” of an award for a few is the means to get a lot of unpaid work out of the many. qed.

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