Consultant award schemes and clinical excellence awards (CEA)

Consultants in England can apply for local and national CEAs (clinical excellence awards). In Wales, consultants can also receive commitment awards and apply for national, while in Scotland, they can apply for discretionary points.

Location: UK
Audience: Consultants
Updated: Thursday 21 January 2021
Wallet and notes illustration

​The national CEA (clinical excellence award) scheme in England and Wales aims to reward the consultants who contribute most to the delivery of safe and high-quality care and the improvement of NHS services. This includes consultants and senior academic GPs who do so through their contribution to academic medicine.

In Wales, consultants can also receive commitment awards. In Scotland, consultants can apply for discretionary points. In Northern Ireland there has been no award scheme run for several years. 


National clinical excellence awards 2021 now open

The 2021 national clinical excellence awards in England and Wales opened on Monday 7 December 2020 and will close on Thursday 18 March. If you are thinking of applying for new awards or renewals you should start working on your application. National awards (levels 9–12) are decided by the ACCEA and its subcommittees. 

Please familiarise yourself with the guidelines.

Download the application forms

BMA support with your application

If you plan to submit a CEA application for a national award and would like to seek BMA support, please submit your application to [email protected] by 1 February 2021 for consideration. This must include the date and level of your last award and a short paragraph (max 250 words) on the work you have done for the BMA. The BMA’s CEA group will consider it and offer a citation for selected applications.

In line with ACCEA’s guide for nominators, the group will be looking for notable applications which are both of a high standard of clinical excellence and show notable contributions to BMA work.

We receive a number of applications and these will be ranked using ACCEA’s scoring and on the applicant’s contributions to the work of the BMA. Only applications which score the most highly in both areas will be supported.

The date and level of your last award is essential information and you must also include a short paragraph (max 250 words) on the work you have done for the BMA.

This year we are only able to consider applications for supporting citations. There will be no process for offering feedback on the applications. Once you have submitted an application to us for consideration for a supporting citation we will notify you on further steps.

All candidates are responsible for submitting their CEA application form to ACCEA as per the instructions in ACCEA’s guide for applicants. The ACCEA will confirm receipt of application. The applicant should chase up any application that has not received a receipt.


What to demonstrate

National CEAs are awarded to consultants who work in England or Wales, and who:

  • demonstrate sustained commitment to patient care and wellbeing, or improving public health
  • maintain high standards of technical and clinical aspects of service while providing patient-focused care
  • in their day-to-day practice, demonstrate a commitment to NHS values and goals by participating actively in job planning, observing the private practice code of conduct and achieving agreed service objectives
  • through active participation in clinical governance, contribute to continuous improvement in service organisation and delivery
  • embrace the principles of evidence-based practice
  • contribute to our knowledge base through research and participate actively in research governance
  • are recognised as excellent teachers, trainers or managers
  • contribute to policy-making and planning in health and healthcare; or
  • make an outstanding contribution to professional leadership.


Local clinical excellence awards in England

In 2018, the BMA reached an agreement with NHS Employers and the Department of Health and Social Care on changes to the local (employer-based) CEA scheme in England. 

Employer-based awards committees assess applications for the local awards (levels 1–9). 


Award values

Level Local awards awarded by local committees £ National awards awarded by ACCEA £
1 3,016
2 6,032
3 9,048
4 12,064
5 15,080
6 18,096
7 24,128
8 30,160
9* or bronze 36,192 36,192
10 or silver 47,582
11 or gold 59,477
12 or platinum 77,320

*a local level 9 can be awarded national which is the same as a bronze level award


Award schemes in the devolved nations

CEAs in Northern Ireland

Consultants in Northern Ireland have been denied new CEAs since 2013.

Distinction awards in Scotland

The distinction awards budget in Scotland has been frozen since 2010, with no new awards and no progression through the scheme. The Scottish Advisory Committee on Distinction Awards undertakes five-yearly reviews of distinction awards for those who already hold them.

Discretionary points in Scotland

There is no nationally agreed application process for discretionary points, and arrangements vary between employers. Most employers have adopted a process following agreement with the local negotiating committee.

All consultants who have reached point five of the pay scale are eligible for consideration. Distinction award holders are ineligible. Consultants granted discretionary points are not normally considered again for two years, although this may vary.

In line with the consultant contract, discretionary points will be paid from 1 April 2019 for work done in 2018-19. 

Commitment awards in Wales

  • Commitment awards are available to all consultants after three years’ service at the top of the consultant pay scale, who demonstrate their commitment through satisfactory job plan reviews. 
  • They are then eligible at three-yearly intervals, until they have achieved eight award levels. Each level is worth an amount annually which is permanent and superannuable.
  • The award is paid automatically in the absence of an unsatisfactory job plan review, so most consultants should receive commitment awards regularly. 

In the rare event of an unsatisfactory job plan review, the employer will:

  • give details of the reasons, in writing
  • record the agreed remedial action
  • give a defined timetable for its completion.

If the consultant doesn’t agree, they can appeal.

An interim job plan review will be arranged no more than six months later. If the situation has been remedied, a satisfactory job plan review will be recorded as usual. If the interim review is also unsatisfactory, the consultant will receive a formal letter outlining the reasons for deferring their commitment award for one year. This deferment is also subject to a right of appeal.

CEAs in Wales

Whilst Welsh consultants received a 2.5% uplift in basic pay for 2019-2020, the Welsh minister for health withheld the uplift recommended by the DDRB for CEAs and commitment awards this year.

BMA Cymru Wales negotiated a one-off payment of £202.44 for this financial year, that was paid to all consultants in March 2020.

This will be the same amount for full and LTFT consultants, but pro-rated as appropriate for those starting in post after April 2019. It is non-consolidated and non-pensionable.

It was also agreed that an additional £0.5m of funding, plus whatever DDRB uplift is awarded next year, will be used for improving the reward package for consultants in Wales in 2020-2021.


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