Headlines: November 29th, 2002

Hospital consultants are setting up a round table meeting with other medical organisations to ensure they present a united professional view on the shape of a new contract for consultants in the National Health Service. The meeting being arranged by the BMA’s consultants committee will take place next Wednesday. Organisations invited include the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the British Association of Medical Managers, the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association and the Joint Consultants Committee.

Consultant’s leaders say that given the depth of feeling that emerged during the recent referendum on new contracts – which saw a 70 per cent turnout -they are particularly concerned to create an inclusive process which ensures that all voices and positions are heard as they move towards new negotiations.

The organisers say the meeting will be an opportunity for all the medical organisations to be debriefed on yesterday’s meeting with the Health Secretary and allow them to express a common view on developments since the contract vote, such as proposals for a sub consultant grade, and to contribute to the development of a new contractual framework.

Meanwhile the public service union, UNISON which represents 450,000 health service workers, is planning a wide-ranging consultation process on the Agenda For Change proposals within the NHS. Karen Jennings, the union’s head of health said, “UNISON is very concerned that talk about massive pay rises for health workers is misleading and could raise false expectations. It is important to emphasise that Agenda for Change proposals are about modernising what was an extremely outdated and antiquated pay system. In common with many public services, modernisation in the health service has been going on over many years without changes being recognised and staff rewarded.

She said the discussions had been going on for almost four years and the process of informing and formally consulting members would also be lengthy. She did not expect any agreement to be reached before the Spring.