BMA negotiators say there may still be a chance to improve the Government’s final offer on proposed new consultant contract in England and Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the BMA Consultant’s Conference, where some delegates called for the BMA to walk out of the contract talks, negotiator Dr Rob Harwood, said: “The best offers are going to come at the end of the process, nobody is going to start the process with their best offer and commit to that.”
Final discussions between the BMA, NHS Employers and the Department of Health about a new consultant contract are ongoing and the BMA is currently waiting for a final offer from the government.
Dr Kevin O’Kane accused NHS employers and the Government of failing to meet their own time lines. He said they had failed to make a contract offer in a timely fashion. NHS England had first promised a contract offer in December, then in January, then a couple of weeks ago they suggested putting it off until later in the year when they had finished dealing with the junior doctors.
But last week they had asked for “intense talks” in March with a view to an offer at Easter.
“The Government is frightened to take us on at the same time as the junior doctors and potentially the GPs as well, so it’s time to terminate this negotiation process. There is nothing in it for us, we are looking at our 2003 salaries being frozen in aspic until 2021 as part of the pay deal while at the same time the Government has asked us to give up schedule three paragraph 6 (the clause in the contract which enables consultants to turn down non-emergency weekend working).
“We cannot continue to negotiate under these terms.”
New consultant contract offer
But Dr Andy Thornley said: “We need to see what the final offer is going to be from the Government. I will probably do okay out of this contract being three years into my consultant job. There will be people like me who wonder why the BMA should vote against this when they look at some of the headline figures. As a good Yorkshireman, I would like you to wait until the lipstick is fully applied to the pig before making a judgement.”
Dr Tom Dolphin warned that if they walked out now the Government may impose the contract instead. “We might need to think of industrial action at some point, but not yet, this isn’t the time.”
Harwood said: “It is not logical to stop the process now, our role as negotiators is to improve the offer. There is no opportunity to improve the offer if we are not in the room to discuss any progress that we might make. If we come out now we will never know what that best offer might have been.”
Consultants Committee Chairman Keith Brent said BMA analysts had calculated that the proposed changes were cost neutral, that consultant salaries would not be frozen at the 2003 pay levels and that some people’s pay would rise.
“We have told them (NHS Employers and the Government) that they need to put money into this new consultant contract if it is to have any chance of being accepted by consultants and they haven’t said no to that,” he said.
The conference also:
- Called on the Government to define what it means by Seven Day Services;
- Called for a “sensible, affordable, and sustainable” approach to Seven Day Services which focuses on urgent and emergency care rather than un-called for seven day elective working;
- Called on the Government to stop blaming doctors for its failure to deliver coherent plans for the NHS;
- Agreed that there is ample evidence that hospital care at weekends can be excellent within the terms and conditions of service of the current consultant contract;
- Rejected the concept that normal working hours extend into the late evening six days per week;
- Demanded that any agreed contract with employers recognises a specific frequency of interruption to sleep equivalent to no sleep at all and includes that as a contractual protection for “on call” working;
- Asked the Board of Science to produce a report on appropriate safeguards and safe scheduling of work for doctors to protect the health of both doctors and patients.