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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 March, 2005, 10:21 GMT
Deadline over consultant pay row
Consultant surgeon
The contract with consultants was negotiated in 2003
Welsh Health Minister Brian Gibbons has said he believes agreement could soon be reached in a long-running row over overtime pay for NHS consultants.

Dr Gibbons was speaking on the day a deadline, set by the British Medical Association (BMA), to settle the pay dispute was due to pass.

The consultants have said they have not been paid for overtime work since they voted to back a new contract in 2003.

Dr Gibbons said on Wednesday that the money was in place for the agreement.

Under the new contract, consultants agreed to work a minimum of 37.5 hours a week for the NHS and be paid overtime for any hours worked beyond that.

We can only apologise to the BMA that we have been a bit later than we expected
Welsh Health Minister Brian Gibbons

Earlier this month, the BMA issued a two-week ultimatum to the Welsh Assembly Government to settle the dispute, which expires on Wednesday.

They have threatened a vote of no confidence in the assembly government and possible industrial action if agreement is not reached.

The BMA has also said consultants in England have already been paid.

But Dr Gibbons told BBC Radio Wales on Wednesday he believed agreement was close.

'Painstaking process'

He added: "We are investing something like 37m in this new contract which is a vast amount of taxpayers' money.

"There are something like 1,600 consultants and we have to look at each and every consultant's contract.

"It's a painstaking process, but I'm glad to report that something like 13 out of 14 trusts have been effectively signed off so the money should be (given) to consultants in this month's pay or next month's pay."

Dr Gibbons added that the audit had taken longer than expected but that the money was now in place.

He said: "This is the first time this process has been undertaken so I think it has turned out to be a bit more difficult and protracted than we expected.

"We can only apologise to the BMA that we have been a bit later than we expected.

"I think we are virtually there and that hopefully the consultants today will feel they will be able to recognise that and agree to work with us to make the health service better in Wales."

'Catastrophic' dispute

Speaking at the time the deadline was issued, Dr Richard Lewis, Welsh Secretary of the British Medical Association, said consultants in Wales were angry it had not yet been introduced.

"This consultant contract was agreed on the 1 December 2003 - it should have been implemented by 1 December 2004. It still hasn't been implemented," he said.

He said that, in a meeting on 28 February, the consultants decided they had "little confidence in the assembly government's ability to implement this contract in its full form.

"Any option is available to us and that will be decided in the meeting on 16 March," he said.

Conservative assembly health spokesman Jonathan Morgan said on Wednesday has believed the dispute had been "catastrophic to the relationship between the Welsh assembly and our consultants".

He added: "They should have sorted this all out in November 2003 when the contract was negotiated."




SEE ALSO:
Consultants' ultimatum over pay
02 Mar 05 |  North East Wales


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