Health Minister John Hutton has announced the beginning of pay negotiations for more than 7,000 NHS doctors.
Hutton said up to £75m would be made available to fund new contracts for NHS doctors in “staff” and “associate specialist” grades.
Negotiations will centre on introducing a new pay structure, as well as the new contractual arrangements to improve services for patients by deploying doctors’ skills more efficiently.
Hutton has asked NHS Employers and the British Medical Association to negotiate the new contract for implementation from April 2006.
The reforms will benefit more than 7,000 NHS personnel.
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.
Alastair Henderson, deputy director of NHS Employers, said: “It is important that the contribution made by staff grade and associate specialist doctors is properly valued”, and added that pay reform could contribute to that.
The proposals follow a report by the NHS Confederation, the umbrella group which represents NHS employers, which recommended that a new contract should be set up for staff grades and associate specialists, which would also cover non-GP qualified clinical assistants and hospital practitioners.