The BMA has said it will attempt to “secure benefits” for members from the current consultant contract negotiations but warns the government’s stated aims remain controversial.
A letter from Dr Keith Brent, chair of the BMA’s consultant committee, suggests the government is seeking a ‘contract variation’ which will affect all 41,000 consultants in England and Northern Ireland, and will not allow any to remain on the old contract.
Brent said the government wants to:
− remove a consultant’s right to decline non-emergency work in the evenings, at night and at weekends
− lower the starting salary
− lower the top of the consultant pay scale
− remove clinical excellence awards including those currently held
− extend plain time hours further into the evening and to include Saturdays
All of this is to be done without any recurrent new money.
Brent says: “It is true that the government have said that the total cost envelope will remain the same as now – so that overall the consultant body should not lose pay, but clearly there is a likelihood that some individuals will (although there may be some temporary protection). Nevertheless, changes in working patterns would become possible or even likely for all.
“It is also true that there may be some benefits to consultants from changes to our contracts. Of course we will try to secure those benefits and also to mitigate the effect of proposed deleterious changes and to get the best deal possible in these negotiations.”
It is believed that NHS Employers is aiming to make a final offer to the BMA in December. Members of the consultant body will then vote on whether to accept or reject the proposals.
This could all be going on as juniors take industrial action.
In January, NHS Employers said consultants would be subject to a new pay structure progressing from a salary of £70,000 a year to £93,000 after five years with no automatic progression. As they gain experience this would increase to £107,000 with additional amounts available dependent on their role, responsibility and out-of-hours work. It would be a flatter pay scale than currently exists.
Consultants would continue to work a 40-hour week and work no more than 13 weekends a year. However, out-of-hours work would increase to fulfil the 7-day service ambition.
Paul Wallace, director of employment relations at NHS Employers, said: “We remain firmly committed to the negotiations process with the BMA consultant committee to deliver a balanced set of reforms that are right for the care of patients, fair to consultants and which address the challenges in the NHS.”
Watch a BMA summary of the issues HERE.
The BMA re-entered negotiations in September following the threat of an imposed contract by the Health Secretary.