DDRB recommends review of consultant pay scale and introduction of a “principal consultant” grade

Authors: Helen Jaques 

Publication date:  20 Dec 2012


Pay for most UK consultants should be limited to the first five points of the current eight point pay scale, and high performing consultants should be moved on to a new “principal consultant” grade, the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB) has recommended.

In its analysis of compensation levels and award schemes for consultants working in UK health services, the DDRB has suggested that the pay scale in use in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland rewards time in service rather than performance and does not provide enough incentive for job growth or development. Similarly, it has said that it cannot support the commitment award system in Wales, which pays consultants on top of their basic pay for time served.

Under the new system proposed by the DDRB, pay for most “satisfactory” consultants would be limited to the first five points of the pay scale (up to £83 829 a year), with further progression up to a maximum of £100 446 on the basis of performance and at the discretion of the employer.

The DDRB also said that the current single consultant grade, which is reached by doctors relatively early in their career, does not provide enough opportunities for career development and job growth.

It suggested that a new “principal consultant” grade be introduced, with a salary range of £81 954 to £120 000, to reward the top 10% of very senior and outstanding doctors. The new grade would recognise “sustained, outstanding performance in roles that carry more responsibility, leadership, specialism, or that make particular demands on the job holder,” the DDRB said.

The government has accepted the report’s main recommendations and will discuss the next steps with the medical profession and NHS Employers in the new year.

The BMA has welcomed the opportunity to review the consultants’ contract. Paul Flynn, chairman of the association’s Consultants Committee, said, “We are pleased the government recognises the importance of continuing with national contracts, developed in partnership with consultants rather than imposed on them. We are open to discussions on ways of further improving the service patients receive at evenings and weekends.”

In 2010 the government asked the DDRB to review compensation levels, incentives, and clinical excellence and distinction award schemes for NHS consultants. Although the main focus of the analysis was compensation over and above basic pay, the review body was also asked to make “observations” on basic pay.

The DDRB found that consultants’ pay was “appropriate” when compared with similar sectors such as the legal, tax and accounting, actuarial, and pharmaceutical professions.

Although median basic salaries and total earnings of newly qualified consultants were lower than their comparators in the private sector, it said, experienced consultants earned more than most comparator occupations.

In the period October to December 2010 the mean basic salary of a full time consultant was £89 600 in England, although mean total earnings were 32% higher at £118 200, thanks to clinical excellence awards.

Helen Jaques news reporter BMJ Careers

 hjaques@bmj.com

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