I was interested to read about the 3 per cent pay offer to non- review pay body staff (news, page 4, 26 August).

It is time that other roles in the health service were recognised as just as important a part of the machinery that keeps the service going. Strike action by non-review body staff would bring hospitals to a halt and show ministers that other members of staff, as well as the doctors and nurses, have a role in care.

The British Society of Medical Secretaries has been campaigning to gain recognition as a profession allied to medicine as our role is crucial to the efficiency and smooth running of a paramedical team.

We are still unclear where medical secretaries stand in the pay review system. At present we are classed with the administrative and clerical grade but our role is unique - we are required to have more than just secretarial and clerical skills. We need to have good command of medical terminology and anatomy, keep abreast with the constant changes taking place within medicine, have IT skills, as well as management and supervisory skills. We are often the first line of contact for patients when reassurance and counselling is necessary.

These skills are not recognised by the pay review body, and the NHS does not offer the specialised training in medical terminology and anatomy that would bring a far better medical secretary to the NHS. Again, these skills are not rewarded financially, and there is not place in trusts' training budgets for medical secretaries at the moment. We are lobbying MPs, the NHS Executive and Unison to try to improve both pay and the professional recognition of the medical secretary.

The BSMS has produced its own pay and grading structure, which has been adopted by some trusts. This, together with our educational and continuing professional development courses, addresses the problems of training medical secretaries, but no money is available in training and development budgets for this.

I hope that the government will continue to look into pay and career structures for non-pay review members of the health service.

Mrs A Rhodes


British Society of Medical Secretaries