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Tuesday 25th October 2016

Consultant contract under fire

19th April 2007


GP contract1National Audit Office (NAO) say new consultant contracts have not enhanced patients' care.

The watchdog reported that NHS consultants have seen a 27% pay increase, yet have failed to deliver promised improvements. Doctors’ earnings increased to £110,000, but the NAO said they were not devoting more time to patients and providing less clinical care. Doctors’ hours fell by an average of 1.4 hours a week.

The terms of the new contract were agreed in 2003 and were intended to allow consultants more flexibility and to have more time with patients. The NAO report said the contract had not fulfilled these promises.

The NAO said the application of the contract had cost £715 million. This figure was £150 million higher than the original Department of Health estimate. The watchdog reported the government had not taken into account consultants’ workload and NHS managers had not stayed within their budgets.

The NAO’s head, Sir John Bourn, said: "Although a new contract was needed, it is regrettable that the costs are higher than expected and that we are not yet seeing any clear evidence of improvements in productivity or services for patients."

The NAO’s critical report follows the debate about the new GP contract. Since it began in 2004, GP pay has risen past the £100,000 a year mark.

Health Minister Lord Hunt defended the contract: "There is considerable potential for the consultant contract to further improve the management of consultant time and deliver full value for money to the NHS."


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