Patrick Grant, consultant in accident and emergency medicine at Western Infirmary, Glasgow, would welcome a new contract drawing a clearer line between NHS and private work. He supports the idea floated by government leaks of paying consultants more for a full-time NHS commitment with no private practice allowed. Those who want to continue with private work could carry on but the amount they work should be clearly specified in their contract, he argues.

Contracts could be reviewed every three to five years to allow doctors to alter their hours to fit in other commitments as their circumstances change - perhaps to have more time with their families or concentrate on other interests.

While he believes most doctors who do private practice more than make up for that by working excessive hours in the NHS, a few abuse the system. 'I don't want to be associated with those individuals and neither do I wish to protect them.'

Like most A and E consultants, Mr Grant currently does no private practice. He estimates he puts in between 55 and 60 hours a week for the NHS, including being on-call, reading and administrative work.