Consultants have pounds 24,000 pay docked

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The Independent Online
FOUR HOSPITAL consultants have had merit awards worth more than pounds 24,000 a year each withdrawn because they were no longer considered to be doing enough for the NHS to justify the payments.

The awards, which can double a consultant's salary, are made for "exceptional contributions to the NHS" and it is the first time that any have been withdrawn, although they are subject to five yearly review.

The awards are paid at three levels on top of the consultant's salary of pounds 47,345-pounds 61,605. The B award is worth pounds 24,640, the A award pounds 43,125 and the A+ award pounds 58,525, which takes a consultant's maximum NHS earnings to over pounds 120,000. None of the four consultants, who each lost B awards, is named in the report of the Advisory Committee on Distinction Awards published yesterday.

The committee, chaired by the former NHS ombudsman Sir William Reid, said the quality of the care the consultants provided was not in question. "Some consultants carry out less academic or management work as they approach retirement, when such work is increasingly carried on by their successors," Sir William said.

The report also shows that senior women doctors have lost out to their male colleagues. Just over 20 per cent of consultants are women but the proportion of A awardsgoing to women has fallen from 11.4 per cent in 1997 to 7.9 per cent last year. The report shows ethnic minorities fared better last year with their proportion of A or B awards rising from 6.2 per cent in 1996 to 9.6 per cent in 1998. However, members of ethnic minorities form 12.9 per cent of the consultant population so still have a below-average chance of getting an award.

The Health minister John Denham said yesterday that the increase in awards to ethnic minorities was encouraging. "However, the reduction in the number of women receiving awards shows we must do more to make the scheme fairer, more open, and in tune with the needs of the service."