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Consultants’ contracts criticised

22 November, 2007  

NHS contracts which boosted hospital consultants’ pay by more than a quarter have led to a fall in productivity, according to an MPs’ report.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) found that the Department of Health underestimated the extra cost of the increased wage bill by £150m over three years, as consultants saw their average salary for NHS work swell from £86,746 in 2003 to £109,974 in 2005.

Despite ministers’ expectations that the change would result in a 1.5% annual gain in productivity, the Department’s own figures suggest productivity fell by 0.5% in the first year of the contract, according to the report.

While numbers of consultants went up by 13%, total consultant activity increased by just 9% and the number of patients treated per consultant fell year-on-year until 2005-06.

Edward Leigh, the Conservative chair of the cross-party committee, said: “The plain fact is that the Department of Health greatly increased consultants’ salaries – on average by over a quarter – without securing any extra productivity from them.”

But Dr Jonathan Fielden, chairman of the British Medical Association’s Consultants Committee, rejected the criticism.

He said: “The chairman of the PAC shows a complete lack of understanding about how consultants work.

“The relentless criticism of consultants and their pay is unreasonable and uncalled-for when the vast majority are going the extra mile to ensure patients get the best possible care – our consultants are worth every penny.”

Copyright © PA Business 2007

British Medical Association