Surgeons' contracts offer ‘poor value for money’ for limiting work outside office hours

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A generous new contract for hospital consultants provided “poor value for money” because it did not require them to work in the evenings and at weekends, public spending watchdogs said on Tuesday.

As a result, some health trusts pay consultants between £48 and £200 an hour for extra work at weekends. Their contract, awarded by the previous Labour Government when the NHS was expanding, was a “missed opportunity”, according to the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

The Department for Health told its inquiry that the contracts remained a barrier to the seven-day NHS it now envisages. Talks on a new contract are underway

In a highly critical report, the committee said the deal raised consultants’ pay by between 24 and 28 per cent, but their productivity continued to decline.

Margaret Hodge, the committee’s Labour chairman, said: “Pay progression for consultants is linked to years in the job rather than how well they are performing.  Clinical excellence awards, costing £500m a year and aimed at rewarding consultants whose performance is over and above what is normally expected, are held by 60 per cent of consultants. This nonsense highlights how badly consultants' performance is being managed.”

Dr Paul Flynn, chairman of the British Medical Association's consultants committee, said: "The report tries to use productivity statistics as a justification to attack the terms and conditions of hard working doctors.The perversity of using these statistics to measure the value of consultants is that we are judged to be less productive if we spend more time with our patients.”