Large pay bonuses cannot be taken away from doctors, even if their performance deteriorates, because of a loophole in the system, the BBC has found.
It means that more than half of the 36,000 consultants in England now get what are effectively “lifetime” awards on top of their basic pay.
To apply for an award, consultants nominate themselves and are asked to provide details of excellent performance and innovation in terms of clinical care, research and training. The awards are reassessed every five years, but critics said the loophole had created a culture where that checking process was effectively obsolete.
In fact, evidence to a government review by the Advisory Committee on Clinical Excellence Awards – the body which oversees the top payouts – even acknowledges that reassessments have not always taken place.
During the four years between 2006 to 2009, just seven of the top awards worth over £35,484 were withdrawn.
However, because of the pay protection clause all these doctors have continued to get the payouts even though the ‘bonuses’ have been formally withdrawn from them.
Those who have had their awards withdrawn do not receive annual pay rises so the NHS can start to claw back some of the money, but as pay is currently frozen, that is having little impact.
A total of 19,892 consultants get the bonuses in England – 55% of the workforce.
Read more at BBC Health.