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The consultant contract

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 09 November 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1120
  1. Rebecca Coombes, freelance journalist

    The British media covered the consultants' rejection of a new national contract with surprising intensity last week. Both the Times and the Daily Telegraph splashed the result on their front page.

    The Daily Telegraph called it a principled stand against the “lash of Whitehall,” whereas the Daily Mirror warned, “Don't let top docs stitch up the NHS.” Other newspapers ran equally dramatic copy, using military metaphors to show the growing rift between doctors and the health secretary, Alan Milburn. Doctors face “guerrilla war” over contracts, thundered the Times. The fighting talk continued elsewhere, with doctors “on a collision course” or simply “at war” with the government.

    Beyond the headlines, however, there was considerable sympathy for why consultants had rejected the contract, which offered an average pay rise of 15% in return for more managerial control over their work. The Sun warned its readers not to assume this was the …

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