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Health Health

Reform the contract for hospital consultants

Last updated: 01:14pm 6 June 2019

We will reform the contract for hospital consultants to reflect the changed nature of hospital care over the past twenty years.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.68

Our verdict

The existing contract for hospital consultants dates back to 2003. It sets out the terms and conditions of employment for consultants. The Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) provides annual recommendations for pay and associated issues, and the government responds to those recommendations. But that process takes place on the basis of the existing contract. This policy is a promise to reform the 2003 contract.

Negotiations to reform the consultant contract have been taking place, on and off, since 2013. Under this government, in April 2018 an agreement was reached to amend local clinical excellence (LCEA) award arrangements, which can be used to reward quality, excellence and exceptional personal contributions.

But plans for wholesale reform of the 2003 contract stalled in October 2018 when the British Medical Association withdrew from negotiations following what it called a “highly unacceptable” pay offer from the Department of Health and Social Care.

The government’s submission to the DDRB in January 2019 acknowledged the breakdown in talks but made no mention of attempts to reopen lines of communication.

So despite the fact that no discussions are currently taking place to reform the contract for hospital consultants, there has been enough activity to mark this as ‘in progress’. We yet don’t know whether talks will be resumed before the government’s term ends, or whether this policy will be scrapped. We’ll keep tracking to see if there are signs of both sides getting back to the negotiating table. Follow this policy to stay updated.

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