The Department of Health has asked the advisory body on doctors’ pay, which is currently reviewing the Clinical Excellence Awards system, to consider closing the scheme in England for new awards.
The move has come to light because ACCEA, the independent body which manages the CEA scheme, has contacted medical societies warning them that there may be no 2012 round if the pay body (the DDRB) heeds the government’s prompt.
A letter from ACCEA medical director Dr David Lindsell and chairman Professor Jonathan Montgomery says: ‘The Department of Health has recently submitted a further paper to the DDRB asking them to consider whether the 2012 round should include applications for new awards. The alternative is that the 2012 round is run for renewal applications only. The DDRB have been asked to make a recommendation on this when they report.’
The DDRB – which has a history of listening to the government – is expected to submit its report to the DoH in July, with its recommendations on the way forward for the CEA scheme in England.
Stephen Campion, chief executive of the HCSA, commented: “Until the DDRB reports to government in July 2011 it would be quite premature for trusts to depart from the Clinical Excellence Award Scheme which is currently available to all eligible consultants.
“By making the 2012 scheme available only for renewal applications the very independence of the DDRB is undermined. If this request from the Department is accepted within the NHS it would send the signal that amendments to the scheme are not driven by the DDRB but overly influenced by the Department of Health.”
In its submission to the review, the Department of Health proposed a ‘slimmer’ system of national awards with trusts being given control of local awards from 2012.
The DoH said then: ‘Trusts will be able to choose whether to have a local scheme, the criteria for making awards and how much to spend on their scheme. This approach responds to the wishes of employers to have greater freedoms to design processes that reflect local priorities and considerations.’
This followed a submission by NHS Employers to the DDRB saying that awards should not be pensionable, protection should end and any available money – as a result of the reform – should be redistributed directly to employers, to use as part of their pay and reward system.
The ACCEA letter to registered medical societies suggests that following the review submission in July there will be ‘a further period during which the Department will consider its response to the recommendation’.
It continues: ‘We are aware that some of you will be thinking about starting your processes for the 2012 round, with some of you possibly having already done so. We wanted to make sure you were aware of the request by the Department.’
Dr Mark Porter, chairman of the BMA’s consultants committee, said: “This reminds me of the pause in the [Health] Bill, where the NHS just carries on restructuring regardless. Here, the Department of Health has referred CEAs for review, and has now told everyone not to await the review but just get on with cutting consultant pay.
“It’s as if they no longer value the professional effort and excellence that consultants bring to the NHS. We will make strong representations on behalf of our members.”
Consultant pay has been frozen over a three-year period, and a review of the NHS pension is likely to result in an increase in contributions for doctors with a reduction in benefits.
Read more on the government’s view of CEAs.
Read more on CEA levels.