Part time consultants schemeBMJ 1994; 309 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.309.6946.55b (Published 02 July 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:55
EDITOR, - Anne Edwards's letter contains several misunderstandings about the part time consultants scheme.1 As the scheme is centrally funded by the Department of Health bids could not be invited until the availability of funds was assured, and government accounting does not allow funds made available for a particular year to be carried forward. Nevertheless, every effort was made to ensure that as much of the funding as possible was available for use. The executive letter announcing the scheme was issued on 30 April 1993 and bids were invited by 11 June. This deadline was extended to 30 June at the request of several employers unable to meet the initial date. Well over 500 bids were received, resulting in an enormous assessment task; the results were announced by 13 September.
It is true that some employers, successful in the first round, have been remarkably slow in making the appointments. The departments retained a reserve list in case any appointments were unsuccessful; interestingly, most of these reserve posts were filled quickly on their release — and well in advance of some of the first round posts. We intend to fund the 1993 posts at the starting level plus inflation until March 1996.
One of the criteria that resulted in a bid being favoured was a willingness by purchasers to continue the post at the end of the scheme. We recognise that some purchasers may find it difficult to give an absolute undertaking so far in advance, but we are keen to encourage purchasers and providers to consider consultant medical staffing as part of their forward business plans, and we therefore gave some weight to those bids where this was in evidence.
Edwards is incorrect in suggesting that cost efficiency savings will be needed to continue funding at the end of the scheme. Great care has been taken to avoid this, and payments under the scheme are being made direct to trusts (in effect an individual contract with each trust) so that additional “free” money is provided for the duration of the scheme.
The new tranche of posts is not funded from unspent money resulting from the first scheme but is provided from extra resources and will be available until March 1997. Again, great effort was made to target the executive letter so that it reached those concerned quickly, and tight but realistic deadlines have been set.
The aim of the scheme is to show that part time working is a cost effective means of providing high quality care. It is a measure of the success of last year's round that at a recent meeting hosted by the Royal College of Physicians several new appointees spoke in support of their experiences of the scheme.