Sixty seconds on . . . the consultant contract

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 02 March 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i1233
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. arimmer{at}

What, the consultants’ contract is changing?

Where have you been? The BMA has been holding road show events across England and Northern Ireland over the past couple of weeks to explain the proposed changes.1 These involve scrapping the current clinical excellence awards system and removing the clause that allows consultants to opt out of non-emergency out-of-hours work.2

How long has this been going on?

Negotiations on the contract began way back in 2012. Since then the talks have stalled and restarted. Unlike the junior doctors, the BMA Consultants Committee is still in negotiations with the government.

Is it going to be as bad as the juniors’ contract?

Well, the changes have been compared to “a cup of cold sick” on social media.3 And Keith Brent, chair of the BMA Consultants Committee, has described them as “a pivotal moment for the medical profession and the BMA.” But the BMA has noted potential benefits in the new contract, including “safeguards” for out-of-hours working (details are unavailable) and a faster pay progression scheme.4

So, the consultants are all for it?

As many people have pointed out, consultants are a diverse group, so what’s good for some could be bad for others. However, there was little support for the changes at a BMA road show in London last week, where not a single member of the audience raised a hand in favour.5

What happens next?

The BMA’s consultant conference on 2 March was set to include a plenary session on the “state of play” of the negotiations, and consultants were due to vote on whether they believed that the contract changes were “intended to reduce medical staff’s pay and not to improve patient care.”6

Elsewhere, consultants on social media have urged their colleagues to get involved, perhaps indicating a desire to emulate the juniors’ powerful online presence, which has been instrumental in their fight against contract changes.7


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