NHS England have announced plans to publish NHS Consultants earnings from private work undertaken in their own free time outside their NHS contracts by April next year.
It’s estimated that half of the 46,000 consultants in England top up their average £112,000 per year earnings by doing private work.
The concerns raised are in relation to conflicts of interest and suggestions that some may delegate much of their NHS work to junior colleagues which can in turn increase waiting times. There is even suggestion that some may take advantage of extended waiting lists to syphon off additional private work to line their own pockets.
Sir Malcolm Grant, Chairman of NHS England, stated on the matter: ‘We have a responsibility to use the £110bn healthcare budget provided by the taxpayer to the best effect possible for patients, with integrity, and free from undue influence. Spending decisions in healthcare should never be influenced by thoughts of private gain.’
However Neil Tolley, Chairman of the London Consultants’ Association disagreed with the plans saying: ‘What you earn in your own time is your own business and nothing to do with the NHS. We are very suspicious that this information will be used for political purposes.’ He continued: ‘I don’t feel there’s any conflict of interest. If you’re a doctor doing private work, that will already be with the knowledge of your hospital. You are already showing transparency.’
Will GPs be next on the hit list for transparency of earnings?
GPs will be asked to consider handing in undated contract resignation letters after a motion to canvas opinion was backed last weekend.
At the Special LMC Conference, delegates voted overwhelmingly to carry a motion proposing that ‘the GPC should canvass GPs on their willingness to submit undated resignations’ unless ’negotiations with government for a rescue package for general practice’ are ’concluded successfully within six months’.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA GP Committee Chair, said he was ‘very happy for this motion to be supported’.
‘It’s not safe for GPs to be examining patients while simultaneously having to take urgent calls from hospitals, district nurses and social workers, and also be called for an emergency home visit at the same time,’ he said.
He added, ‘To put it simply, it is not safe to carry on the way we are, and which is why this conference is highlighting that general practice is quite literally in a state of emergency.’
Dr Maureen Baker, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, was in agreement and referred to the current situation as ‘unsustainable’.
‘GPs and our teams are making in excess of 370m patient consultations a year to keep up with the demand of our growing and ageing population.
‘That’s 60m more consultations than five years ago, yet funding for general practice has declined dramatically in real terms over the last ten years, and our workforce has remained stagnant.
‘That just isn’t sustainable – we just can’t work any harder than we already are.’
Dr Anthony O’Brien from Devon LMC said: ‘There is no point canvassing unless you think it is likely you are going to get a consensus.’
The motion in full
The conference instructed GPC that, should negotiations with government for a rescue package for general practice not be concluded successfully within 6 months of the end of the conference:
1- Actions that GPs can undertake without breaching their contracts must be identified to the profession
2- A ballot of GPs should be considered regarding what work/services must cease to reduce the workload to ensure safe and sustainable care for patients
3- The GPC should canvass GPs on their willingness to submit undated resignations
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