Published: 06/05/2004, Volume II4, No. 5904 Page 4

A senior Department of Health source has told HSJ he hoped 80 per cent of consultants who said they were interested in working under the new consultant contract would have been offered a deal, as the end-of-April deadline passed last weekend. But the British Medical Association described this as 'generous'.

The source also said he hoped half of those who had been offered a specific job plan would have accepted the proposals. The DoH said earlier this year that it wanted all consultant job plans to be tied up by the end of April.

But BMA chief consultant contract negotiator Dr Jonathan Fielden said the figures were 'a generous estimate'.As HSJ went to press, the BMA claimed that less than half of all trusts in England had implemented new contracts.

Dr Fielden told HSJ the bulk of unresolved offers could be blamed on 'very intransigent positions taken by trusts', and he said chief medical officer Professor Sir Liam Donaldson expressed concern over the contract implementation at a recent meeting.

Sir Liam was unable to speak to HSJ before it went to press.

At the joint consultants' committee last month, which involves professional body members and DoH representatives, Dr Fielden said Sir Liam had voiced his concerns and would be approaching NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp for more implementation guidance.

However, implementation is patchy across the country, and consultants at Salford Royal Hospitals trust called an emergency meeting last week to discuss whether contract offers would meet the number of sessions doctors say they need to work.

Dr Fielden said the problem had arisen from money offered for additional 'programmed activities', above the 10 core sessions required under the contract.

Contract guidance says that where necessary, consultants should be paid for extra sessions.

A spokesperson for Salford Royal Hospitals trust said it was still in discussions with its consultants on all aspects of the contract.