Hospital Dr News

Recognise consultant role in meeting challenges

NHS consultants – and the value, experience and professionalism that they bring – need to better recognised and utilised if the NHS is to overcome the challenges it’s facing.

This was the message from Dr Paul Flynn, chair of the BMA’s consultant committee, as he addressed the annual meeting of seniors.

He said: “Consultants, who often will have a 25-year career in one organisation, are in it for the long haul and can bring their experienced perspective to counterbalance the short-termism that is all too prevalent in NHS management.”

Flynn also highlighted the vital role consultants play in shaping the delivery of patient care and said that consultants would not shy away from asking difficult questions on seven-day services and their affordability.

“We put the interests of patients first. In practice this means that urgent and emergency care, the care of those who most need it, must have a higher priority than the expansion of routine services across seven days,” he said.

The government’s desire for a seven day service cannot be delivered at the expense of consultants’ work-life balance, Flynn said.  The BMA is currently in negotiations with NHS Employers over a new consultant contract.

“It is unrealistic to expect that current numbers of consultants can support seven-day services as well as all our current activity. Burn-out of consultants is in nobody’s interest and significant expansion of consultant numbers will be required if the NHS wishes to provide seven-day services.”

He said the standard consultant contract must remain a 10 programmed activity contract with any additional hours being voluntary. Consultants must have job plans that allow them to maintain a proper work-life balance, he added.

Many consultants are already working excessive hours to deliver patient care, he said, and “those of us who were junior doctors before the New Deal do not want to see a return to the days when the health of patients and their doctors was put at risk by excessive hours and poorly-designed rosters”.

Dr Flynn highlighted the fact staff morale is now the biggest concern for trust financial directors.

On the issue of consultant pay, Dr Flynn said remuneration should be driven by fairness and questioned the decline of doctors pay compared to that of NHS managers.

He said: “The real terms value of consultant pay is now lower than it was before the 2003 contract was introduced.  What sort of a message are we sending the brightest and best students when the pay of NHS managers climbs by 13% since 2009 while that of consultants is outstripped by inflation?”

Read his full speech.

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