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Understanding the Consultant contract

20180835 Know your rights consultant campaign 16x9

About the campaign

Know your rights, know your contract, and protect your working life.

The BMA is here to help you get the best out of your contract. Find key information to support you, and ensure you get a fair deal from your employer. If you have any further questions, call 0300 123 1233 or email [email protected].

This page will continue to be updated as the campaign progresses – be sure to check back every fortnight for each theme in focus.


Know your rights on...

  • Job planning

    ‘My weekly activities no longer match what’s set out in my job plan. Can I do anything about it?’

    • You do not need to wait for an annual review to address concerns with your job plan. You or your employer can request an interim review if duties or needs have changed, or if you are concerned about whether your objectives can be met.
    • You should not be pressured into agreeing a job plan that is not clinically justified or compliant with your contract. Job planning should be a collaborative process, and your agreement is an absolute requirement.
    • Benefit: Download the BMA's Dr Diary app to help evidence your time for your job plan review. Dr Diary is the new job planning tool for NHS consultants which helps to address your job planning challenges.

    Get informed

    BMA overview of consultant job planning
    What are job plans?
    BMA/NHS Employers joint guidance on job planning (England only)
    BMA job planning checklist
    BMA model job plans (England, Scotland and Northern Ireland)
    Step-by-step job planning (Northern Ireland)

    Consultant terms and conditions of service – Schedule 3: ‘Job planning’ (England, Scotland and Northern Ireland); Amendment Chapter 1: ‘Job Planning’ (Wales)

  • Leave

    ‘If I take a week of leave, does that cover all my PAs (programmed activities)/sessions for that week?’

    • All consultants receive proportionately the same amount of annual leave. However, in your contract, annual leave is defined in terms of weeks and days – and ‘a week’ means different things for different people depending on the number of days or hours they work. If you work a weekly average of 11 PAs, for example, then one week of leave covers 11 PAs.

    • If you work a more variable or irregular job plan, with differences from one week to the next, it may be useful to calculate your annual leave entitlement based on PAs/sessions. Read our guidance on consultant leave and different ways of calculating entitlement. While the examples are tailored to the contracts for England and Northern Ireland, they highlight that there are different ways of thinking about your annual leave.

    • All consultants are entitled to 30 days study leave over the course of three years (often averaged as 10 days a year). This leave can be used to cover a range of activity, including attendance at courses, conferences or programmes, undertaking research, or teaching and training. Remember to ensure that your employer agrees in advance that expenses for study and professional leave are met. In Wales, local agreements can be made within health boards/ trusts to extend the amount of study leave. This does not include time off for trade union activities and duties which should be recognised separately.

    • Benefit: to help evidence your time and calculate your annual leave, use Dr Diary, the app that supports job planning. After reading the guidance, if you need further support, please contact us on 0300 123 1233 or email [email protected]

      Get informed

      BMA overview of annual leave
      BMA guidance on public holidays
      BMA guidance on professional, study and professional leave


      Consultant terms and conditions of service – Schedule 18: ‘Leave and public holidays’ (England & Northern Ireland); Schedule 7: ‘Leave Arrangements’ (Scotland); Paragraphs 205-217 (Wales)

  • Pensions

    This content will be published on 28 February

  • Pay

    This content will be published on 14 March

  • Covering colleagues

    This content will be published on 28 March

  • Shift and resident working

    This content will be published on 11 April

  • Reducing your hours and commitments

    This content will be published on 25 April

  • Need more help? Contact us

    If you have any further questions, call 0300 123 1233 or email [email protected].