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A new grade of scientific staff has been agreed in cervical cytology, to undertake work currently done by consultant pathologists, of whom there is a severe shortage.

The Department of Health has approved the creation of advanced practitioner posts for highly trained biomedical scientists. The posts, analogous to nurse consultants, will allow the pathologists to report abnormal cervical smears and to recommend treatment directly to GPs and gynaecologists.

Scientists appointed to the posts will start on a higher salary of£36,121, potentially rising to£47,534.

MSF union, which has spent three years negotiating the new grade, is hoping to extend it to other professional posts.