Consultants balk at ‘cost-neutral’ deal

Doctors are to push for a deal in the consultant contract negotiations in England which is not ‘cost-neutral’.

The move was announced today by BMA consultants committee chair Rob Harwood at the BMA annual representative meeting in Brighton.

Dr Harwood said he expected negotiations on the contract would resume shortly to conclude later this year or early next.

Negotiations on the consultant contract were initiated in 2013. The Department of Health and Social Care stated that they must be ‘cost neutral’.

Junior doctors at specialty trainee 3 grade and above and specialty doctors will be balloted alongside consultants on any final offer which is agreed with NHS Employers and the Government.

‘A new contract cannot just be any negotiated settlement – it must be a deal we want,’ he said.

‘Above all it must be a fair deal, but be clear what I mean when I say “fair”: after 10 years of pay restraint our expectations have changed,’ he added.

‘A fair deal needs to reflect that, and the value that consultants bring to the health service. A cost-neutral deal will not do.’

Consultants should be ‘properly valued and properly rewarded’ for their work, Dr Harwood said. ‘Every day, consultants prop up a service on its knees and make a difference to the lives of the patients they serve.’

Dr Harwood said it had been a ‘mixed year’, citing the case of Hadiza Bawa-Garba as a particularly low point for the profession.

The BMA had responded with guidance for consultants ‘working in an environment of unbearable systemic pressure’.

He said he was proud the guidance was drawn up in consultation with junior and SAS doctor colleagues, and that it would lead to further joint working with other branches of practice.

He also described how the BMA had taken legal action, which led to a negotiated settlement establishing the long-term contractual status of local clinical excellence awards.

He said: ‘Crucially, all trusts in England are now obliged to run award rounds each year, and to ensure that the CEA monies must be spent on awards for hard-working consultants and not diverted elsewhere.’

See and read the transcript of Dr Harwood’s speech

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