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Quality care should determine contract changes

The BMA consultants committee yesterday agreed that consultant negotiators from England and Northern Ireland should have initial talks with NHSE (NHS Employers) about possible changes to their terms and conditions.

The committee has not committed to formal contract negotiation.

The Department of Health and the devolved administrations have sought UK-level talks on changes to consultant contracts.

This followed the publication of the DDRB (Doctors and Dentists Review Body) report into consultant remuneration in December. The government has also expressed a desire to introduce more seven-day working in the NHS in England.

CC chair Paul Flynn said: ‘We decided to begin exploratory discussions with NHSE to see if it is possible to find some broad terms for negotiation. We have not committed to negotiations at this stage, and will only take part if we believe it will be in the best interests of consultants to do so.’

Mid Staffs recommendations

Referring to the recommendations of the public inquiry into failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, he added: ‘Any contractual changes should directly or indirectly serve to maintain or improve quality of care, as underlined by the Francis report.’

The DDRB report recommends that clinical excellence awards should continue but with significant changes, such as time-limiting them and reducing their financial value.

It also proposes the creation of a ‘principal consultant grade’. An accompanying ministerial statement from health minister Jeremy Hunt includes a proposal to ‘better support seven day working in the NHS’.

The BMA Scottish and Welsh consultants committees have decided not to take part in UK-level discussions, as they do not believe it would be in the best interests of consultants in those nations.

Letters have been sent to BMA consultant members in all four nations to inform them of the decisions. Junior doctors are also exploring contract issues with NHSE.

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