The British Medical Association (BMA) says the Government funds available to negotiate new contracts for thousands of NHS doctors are likely to fall short of the amount needed.
Last week Health Minister John Hutton announced the Government would make £75m available to fund new contracts for employees and associate specialist grade doctors.
The BMA will negotiate the deal on behalf of doctors. However, a spokesman told Personnel Today that the funding was unlikely to be enough.
“We can’t put a figure on how much it will cost as we don’t know the nature of the contract, which doctors will be covered and what training they will need,” he said.
There are more than 7,000 staff and associate specialist doctors working in the NHS. The group consists of doctors who are neither consultants, nor junior doctors training to be consultants.
Negotiating new contracts for those doctors is seen as crucial to avoiding a staffing crisis in accident and emergency (A&E) departments across the UK.
The BMA estimates around half of the doctors working in A&E in the UK are employed in staff and associate specialist positions.
More than six in 10 (62 per cent) A&E departments have lost a staff-grade doctor to general practice in the past year.
The NHS Employers Organisation will carry out the negotiations with the BMA. These will focus on introducing a new pay structure, as well as the new contractual arrangements to improve services for patients by deploying doctors’ skills more efficiently.
The Government said reforms could include a stronger link between pay and competence, incentives for out-of-hours working and a degree of local flexibility to meet patient needs, including availability of premium wages to aid recruitment and retention.