Published: 07/11/2002, Volume II2, No. 5830 Page 7

NHS human resources director Andrew Foster said this week that he had faced 'personal hostility' over the consultant contract.

He described some of the opposition he had faced as 'dirty, low fighting' which 'has come across as personal hostility to me.'

British Medical Association consultants and specialists committee acting chair Derek Machin has blamed perceptions that consultants would be forced to work unsocial hours on messages coming from the Department of Health. He cited in particular a slide shown by Mr Foster in a presentation to NHS chief executives and social services directors in July, which included the line:

'BMA think managers will not use the contract' and said evening and weekend sessions were 'tools that must be used'.

But Mr Foster said: 'BMA is having terrible problems. It has taken a deal and recommended it and it has been defeated. It has been trying to direct the blame onto me.'

The slide had been shown in 'a private meeting to managers, responding to what was happening at BMA roadshows', he said.

At the roadshows, BMA negotiators had played down the less popular aspects of the contract, he said.

'They were saying you'll get the money and none of this [job plans, objectives etc] will ever happen.'

In response, Mr Foster had made clear to managers what was expected to result from the contract. BMA had also told doctors it had 'privately costed the contract at£1bn' even though the£300m cost envelope had been 'explicitly agreed' between the BMA and the DoH, he said.

Mr Foster said the BMA had 'oversold' the deal to its members, and admitted: 'Frankly, we should have presented it jointly.'

He said the ballot result had 'underlined a rift between doctors and managers', adding: 'We have got to restore relations between doctors and managers, and doctors and the government.'