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What price excellence?

More than half of NHS consultants in England and Wales continue to benefit from national “clinical excellence awards” – extra money for senior doctors that is nominally linked to performance. Latest data obtained by HSJ shows the national awards cost taxpayers more than £300m over the last two years.

Costs relating to similar local awards decided by employers are not included in the data - meaning the cost to taxpayers will be significantly above £300m. 

In all, 54 per cent of the consultant population receive either a local or a national clinical excellence award.

The CEAs are designed to reward consultants for exceptional work on improving care and safety of services but the Department of Health has previously said system should be reformed to make them non-pensionable and dependent on performance appraisals on annual basis.

The awards are thought to be one of the negotiating points between the government and the British Medical Association over the new consultant contract.

The story caused some indignation among HSJ readers. “I have worked in the NHS as a clinician, public health doctor, manager, and many other capacities - and I find it very difficult to justify perpetuating this arrangement. (phrases like “stuffing mouths with gold” and “duck-houses” come to mind),” wrote one.

Another said: “Change is needed and anyone who is passionate about the NHS will get this. However simply removing it is likely to be seen as another attack on pay. Tricky.”

Reading returns

A much-travelled NHS turnaround chief has returned to the service to lead a trust out of special measures.

HSJ has learned Dr Peter Reading, who once ran University College London Hospitals, has been appointed chief executive of Northern Lincolnshire and Goole FT. He is currently an associate director at PwC.

NLAG was placed in both quality and financial special measures earlier this year. Former chief Karen Jackson will remain interim boss at Southport and Ormskirk.

Dr Reading was the chief executive of Lewisham and Guy’s Mental Health Trust and its predecessor organisations for 10 years from 1988 before moving to the chief executive job at University College London Hospitals for two years.

He led University Hospitals of Leicester Trust between 2000 and 2007, before taking two interim chief executive roles, first at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals FT from 2010 to 2011 and then Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals FT from 2012 to 2014.

In 2014, Dr Reading was named one of HSJ’s top chief executives after building up “an excellent track record as a turnaround interim chief executive”.

He was described by a peer as “steadfast and solid in an extremely challenging situation. He never shirks from the tough conversation… in discharging his responsibilities.”