Doctors open talks with Scottish Executive after voting “yes”

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 09 November 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1053
  1. Bryan Christie
  1. Edinburgh

    Consultants in Scotland have agreed to enter into discussions about implementing the new contract in a historic move that signals the first break up of UK consultants' terms and conditions of service since the NHS was established in 1948.

    The Scottish Committee for Hospital Medical Services decided that the 59% vote in favour of the contract in Scotland was a strong enough mandate toopen discussions with the Scottish Executive on implementing the contract.Talks are to begin immediately with a view to having the new contract in place on 1 April 2003.

    However, the committee wants the new arrangements to be voluntary. It is pursuing an agreement that will allow the 41% of consultants who voted against the contract to stay on their current terms and conditions if they choose to. The committee is also seeking a “no detriment” clause, which would protect the position of Scottish doctors if better terms are agreed over time in other parts of the United Kingdom.

    The vote to accept the contract in Scotland is thought to reflect the different conditions that exist in the Scottish NHS. Consultants traditionally have done less private work in Scotland and relationships with managers are generally constructive.

    Dr John Garner, chairman of the BMA's Scottish Council, said: “I believe that the NHS in Scotland increasingly differs from that in England and that Scottish consultants will gain from accepting the contract. We face a difficult time ahead in implementing this contract, but I believe the good relationship we have with the Scottish Executive will facilitate this.”

    Concern exists, however, about the 73% of specialist registrars in Scotland who voted against the contract. If they want to work in Scotland, they will have to accept consultant jobs under the new contract arrangements, and fears have been expressed that this will adversely affect recruitment.

    Dr Garner accepted that negotiators had to take account of all the views of those who voted.

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