Letter: Consultant awards

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Even if the system of making merit awards for medical specialists is reformed ("Minister ends consultants' `old pals act' ", 11 August), it will still remain a form of patronage and will continue to be used for persuasion or bargaining and will still be based, in the greatest number of cases, on certain untestable assumptions as to an individual's attitudes or abilities.

The system of paying specialists, that is consultants, is absurd. A consultant reaches the maximum point on the pay scale after five years or less. Thereafter, there is no increment until retirement. It is an absurd notion that a consultant five years after appointment has equal value with someone 15 years his senior, with considerably more experience. What is needed is not a revision of the merit award system; this system should be abandoned immediately and a properly structured form of remuneration for consultants implemented. This could well include greater weighting for some specialities than others and properly staged seniority payments. The contracts should in some way be sensitive to the amount of work actually undertaken.