Consultant Northern Ireland Job planning

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Step by step guide to job planning for consultants in Northern Ireland

What if I work for more than one employer?

If a you work for more than one employer, one organisation should be identified as the lead employer who will assume responsibility for agreeing the entire job plan.


What should the job plan cover?

It should cover:

  • Your main duties and responsibilities
  • The scheduling of commitments
  • Accountability arrangements – professionally and managerially
  • Agreed personal objectives and their relationship with wider service objectives
  • The support needed to fulfill the job plan


What are the principles underpinning the job planning process?

In developing the job plan bear the following in mind:

  • It should be developed in a spirit of partnership
  • It is a prospective agreement setting out duties, responsibilities and objectives for the coming year
  • It should cover all aspects of your professional practice
  • It may be modelled on the previous year’s plan
  • The plan may be wholly or partly team-based
  • It could include local, regional or national service objectives
  • It should include personal objectives
  • Resources and support required are agreed and stated
  • The process is separate from, but linked to, appraisal


Who is involved?

Many people can be involved in the job planning process. The three most important are:

  • You or your team of consultants for part of the process (as each of you will have your own personal objectives and personal schedule)
  • Medical Manager Lead Clinician, Clinical Director or Medical Director
  • Chief Executive

Although the job plan is an agreement between you and the employer, in practice the detailed discussion will take place between you and your medical manager, whose responsibility it is to draw up the draft job plan. The Chief Executive’s responsibility is to ensure that all consultants have agreed job plans, as well as to sign them off.


Job plan reviews

There should be a job plan review every year. Much of the information required for the job plan review is the same or similar to that required for the appraisal process.

In addition, one outcome of the appraisal process is a personal development plan.

It would seem sensible, therefore, that the two processes should occur as close together in time as possible.

If there is a significant change in any aspect of the job plan during the year it may be necessary to have an interim job plan review.

The purpose of the review is to:

  • Consider what has affected the job plan
  • Consider progress against the agreed objectives
  • Agree any changes to duties and responsibilities
  • Agree a plan for achieving personal objectives
  • Agree support needed from the organisation
  • Review relationship with private practice


Information needs

The information needed to inform job planning will differ between specialties and even between consultants in the same specialty. It is not possible, therefore, to give a definitive list of what might be required. The different parties to the job planning process also require different sets of information. We have suggested the sort of information required. The list is by no means exhaustive, nor is every item mentioned necessary.


Information checklists


  • Last year’s job plan. If this is the first job plan or if either party feels that there might be need for significant change in the current job plan, a sensible diary kept over an appropriate number of weeks. (See the diary card)
  • List of main clinical responsibilities for employer
  • Workload figures broken down in a meaningful way
  • Timetable of private practice commitments
  • List and scheduling of any fee paying services
  • Teaching commitments
  • CPD or CME requirements
  • Personal development plan
  • List and time commitment of other duties and responsibilities for main employer
  • List and time commitment of duties and activities for other organisations such as work for trades unions, GMC, and Royal Colleges
  • Clinical audit and clinical governance issues to be addressed
  • Support provided by the organisation and support required
  • Ideas for improvements to service quality, range or performance
  • Thoughts on blockages to efficient service delivery

Medical Manager:

  • Quantity and quality targets for the directorate and performance against them by the team and individually in the previous year
  • Knowledge of the relevant priorities within the local delivery plan
  • Changes in services being required of, or offered by, the directorate
  • Clinical audit and clinical governance issues affecting the directorate
  • Knowledge of the resource base of the directorate including numbers of staff, changes in skill mix and those services, space and equipment available
  • Understanding of current and new initiatives within the directorate or Trust

You and the medical manager may also need information from other sources to complete the job plan accurately. This might include:

  • Activities for other employers in the case of joint appointments
  • Changes in practices and or services of other directorates or other providers
  • National clinical audit or clinical governance issues
  • Changes in the health provision requirements of the local health community
  • Information from tertiary centres regarding referrals
  • Guidance from the Royal Colleges, particularly regarding workload and changes in clinical practice
  • The requirements of medical schools
  • The needs of doctors in training
  • Feedback from trainees


Before the discussion

If the job planning process is to have meaning and to be helpful to both you and the organisation, some preparatory work is necessary by both parties.

It is very likely that you will need to keep a diary for a period of time to assess accurately the amount of time you spend on different activities. You and the medical manager will need to agree how long a diary needs to be kept (most often this will be for a 4-week period).

You will also need to collect other information to give some structure to the process.  If the job planning discussion takes place immediately after your annual appraisal then much of the information can be shared. As your personal development plan will have been agreed at the appraisal session, it can immediately inform the job planning discussion.

You and the medical manager need to agree, at the outset, who should prepare the first draft job plan. This is usually the medical manager's responsibility, but by agreement you may wish to do it.


Recording your work - Dr Diary

Working with a range of BMA members from across the UK, we have launched a new job planning tool for NHS consultants, SAS doctors and medical academics to help address your job planning challenges.

It's easy to use. Just download the app to your phone or tablet, or login on the desktop tool, and start tracking your work on the go. Simply enter your work activity details from a personalised list; allowing the tool to build a picture over time.

You can then download your report via the desktop tool to check against your job plan and ensure it reflects the hours you work.
Your entries are completely confidential - you can choose what to share at your job planning meeting.

Read more about Dr Diary and download here


Preparing the job plan

You should now have enough information for a draft job plan to be prepared. This needs to include the following elements:

  • activities, timing, content and where they will happen
  • on-call commitments and the work that is generated as a consequence of being on-call
  • commitments to the employing organisation that do not occur on a regular, weekly basis
  • additional duties for the employing organisation
  • commitments to other organisations
  • personal objectives
  • the support required to undertake the job that is already provided by the organisation
  • additional support requested


The job planning meeting

It is essential that you and the manager allow enough uninterrupted time (perhaps one hour, although more time may be required for first job plans or where significant changes are being proposed). It is also essential that sufficient time has been allowed to prepare for the meeting, that all relevant information has been collated and that a provisional job plan has been drawn up for discussion.

You should both make every possible effort to agree job plans. In the rare circumstances where a consultant and employer fail to reach agreement on the content of a job plan, either initially or at a job plan review, they should follow the facilitation and appeal procedures which will be set out in Schedule 4 of the Terms and Conditions.

Once the job plan has been agreed, the medical manager should send a copy to the Chief Executive for formal ratification.  You and the medical manager should also keep a copy.