I refer to the news story 'Pay working group collapses as BMA and RCN withdraw' (page 2, 6 August).

This 'collapse' appears to be due to the British Medical Association's objection to the use of job evaluation and its perceived inability to measure clinical decision-making. I have long suspected that the NHS is in danger of moving down the old-fashioned way of conducting and using the job evaluation tool.

Job evaluation is purely aimed at slotting jobs into a number of felt- fair job grades. Between eight and 12 are all that is necessary for the NHS for health authorities and trusts. With fewer grades, the call for constant appeals and reviews is much reduced. A simple factor-based system can be used for all jobs - too much detail fogs the issue of aiming for the right grade. I have used such a system on all types of organisation, including the NHS.

Pay is an entirely separate issue. A common job evaluation system does not imply a common pay system. It is normal to have different pay structures to reflect different pay markets. A common grading structure provides a framework within which flexibility can be exercised on pay, recruitment and other aspects of work while having a guide to relativities between jobs in different functions.

The working group should remember the principle of simplicity. It is essential that the evaluation system can be understood by all employees and that the evaluations can be undertaken by in-house human resources staff with, or without, a panel of no more than two others drawn from the workforce. Large panels take too long and do not lead to any additional accuracy when only a few grades are being implemented. A simple understandable system helps staff gain confidence in the fairness of the results and gives managers flexibility.

RF Couldrey

Chair

North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare trust