NHS doctors will be able to get their 2012 round of Clinical Excellence Awards after health minister Simon Burns gave the go ahead.

He has written to the Advisory Committee on Clinical Excellence Awards to ask it to launch the 2012 rounds at both national and local level as soon as possible.

But the Department of Health has given no indication yet of the long-term future of the awards scheme which have been criticised for not providing value for money.

The committee is expected to issue guidance to hospital trusts and potential applicants soon.

The awards allow doctors to earn between £2,950 up to £75,000 in bonuses, with the cost of awards split between local hospital trusts and the DH.

The total cost of the awards is estimated at around £200m a year.

Mr Burns said the awards would “reward and recognise those who make outstanding achievements and give exceptional patient care”.  

However, he added: “We must ensure that this system is effective, affordable and sustainable.  We are currently considering an independent report on Clinical Excellence Awards and how they should work in the future.”

The announcement was made after doctors began voting on the British Medical Association’s ballot over industrial action over reform to pensions.

NHS Employers director Dean Royles welcomed the end to the uncertainty over the 2012 round.

“We look forward to the government’s response to the independent report on the future of the awards,” he added. “We believe the award arrangements are in need of significant reform if they are to reward the most excellent and innovative staff, in an affordable and sustainable way.”

Academy of Medical Colleges chairman Sir Neil Douglas, insisted the awards were a “robust and transparent process for recognising and rewarding clinical excellence of doctors at local and national level”.