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Consultants’ contract of 2003 is my biggest regret, Milburn says

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f1385 (Published 01 March 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1385
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

Alan Milburn’s biggest regret, as he looked back at his period as health secretary for England (1999 to 2003), was the 2003 consultants’ contract. Its defect, he told a London workshop on 26 February, was that it failed to provide the right incentives; consultants were rewarded regardless of merit, with no encouragement to move towards the very different systems of care that the 21st century required.

It was a claim that provoked no rebuttal at the workshop, entitled NHS@75 and organised by the consultancy firm PwC (formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers), perhaps because no hospital consultants were present. There was general agreement among those there—who included NHS managers, staff of the Nuffield Trust, politicians, and private sector representatives—that profound changes would be needed before 2023, when the NHS celebrated its 75th birthday, including new …

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