Bonus payments to doctors on six figure salaries set to be slashed
Bonus payments given to thousands of doctors on top of their six figure salaries are to be slashed as part of a Government clampdown.Most hospital consultants currently receive an annual merit award, which gives them up to £76,000 on top of an average salary of £110,000.
Once a medic is on the scheme, they almost always stay on it for life, with the fund counting towards their pension.
In August, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley ordered an overhaul of the whole system, which has just paid more than 1,700 doctors more than £45,000 each, on top of their salaries.
Now medics have been told that until this review reports, the fund for all new payments made by local hospitals will be cut by more than 40 per cent. Meanwhile, the number of new awards made by the national part of the scheme has been halved.
While maximum levels remain the same – at £76,000 for those who get a payout from the Department of Health, and £35,000 for those rewarded by their local hospital, the pot will be shared among fewer medics.
New figures show that this year, 300 consultants received a “platinum” award of £75,800 in bonuses. Another 623 took home “gold” rewards of more than £55,000, and 847 were given more than £46,000.
Consultants have been given rewards above basic salary ever since the NHS was created in 1948.
But they have become more contentious since a new contract, introduced in 2003, increased the average salary by one third, to £110,000, as working hours fell.
This year, more than half of consultants received some sort of merit payment, under schemes set up to reward those who have made outstanding contributions to patient care or research.
The British Medical Association is threatening to take legal action over the new cuts, which will take effect in April.
The chairman of its consultants committee, Dr Mark Porter, said ministers were sending out an “appalling” message to the NHS.
The union has written to Mr Lansley, objecting to the latest changes, and is exploring whether legal action can be pursued.
Dr Porter told The Sunday Telegraph: “This is a really appalling way to treat doctors.
“We understand that there is a difficult position with public spending, but to specifically hit out at those doctors who are performing at the highest levels – those who go the extra mile – and decide to take investment from them, sends out a terrible message.”
Alan Maynard, Professor of Health Policy at York University said the Government was right to attempt to clamp down on a scheme which he described as “extraordinarily generous and poorly policed”.
He said: “These payments are supposed to reward particular excellence, and supposed to be subject to regular review.
“In fact, once an award is made, it is almost always for life, and these sums augment doctors’ pensions by an enormous amount.”
Emma Boon, from the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said that while consultants did an important job, the increases to their incomes in the last decade had been “astonishing”.
She said: “We need to ensure value throughout the NHS, and that means we can’t afford to sustain payments at these levels. Though doctors deserve decent rewards, we should be careful not to overcompensate them for the work they do.”
The Department of Health said the changes reflected the “challenging financial environment” the NHS was working in.
A spokesman said the Government wanted to reward those who went beyond the call of duty, and said the best consultants would still receive awards.
Tags: Andrew Lansley, BMA, Doctors, Health Professionals, National Health Service, NHS, nhs cash shortages, TaxPayers Alliance