SCOTLAND

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

The leader of Scotland's consultants has warned that the 'yes' vote for the new contract does not mean there is room for complacency.

Dr Peter Terry said there were still areas of concern which would have to be addressed, including the question of management control - a major issue in England's 'no' vote.

Dr Terry, chair of the British Medical Association's Scottish committee for hospital medical services, said: 'It is true that relationships between consultants and managers are better in Scotland than in England, but I wouldn't say they are significantly better.

'We still have to work hard to improve the relationships. The health service needs both consultants and managers and both have the same objectives, which are to provide quality care for patients.

'But we are aware that our junior colleagues have had problems with managers in some areas during the implementation of their new contract, and we know there is no room for complacency.'

Fifty-nine per cent of Scottish consultants were in favour of the new contract, and the consultants' committee is now preparing to negotiate terms and conditions of service.

Though both sides are making it clear that it is the UK contract the Scots will push ahead with, the terms and conditions will be negotiated with the Scottish Executive health department.

As HSJ went to press, the negotiating teams and details had not been confirmed, but it is likely that Mark Butler, head of human resources with the department, backed by civil servants from the workforce and policy division, will lead discussions on behalf of the executive. Both sides said the first meeting would be 'soon'.

Some of the more vociferous 'no' voters in England, particularly the junior doctors' leaders, urged the Scottish consultants not to go it alone, fearing it would lend strength to health secretary Alan Milburn's arm in imposing the contract in England.

BMA Scottish council chair Dr John Garner said: 'A 'yes' vote for Scotland reflects the diversity within the profession across the UK and I am glad we have decided to listen to the majority of our members.'

The north-south divide on the consultant contract vote was much predicted. Factors behind it include the fact Dr Terry, who led the contract roadshows, is well respected by colleagues, plus the relatively small size of the medical community where doctors are more likely to know a negotiator personally than is the case in England. There is also much less private practice in Scotland than England.

And while the UK junior doctors' committee of the BMA waged a ferocious 'no' campaign, their Scottish equivalents kept quiet, merely advising their members to vote as they saw best.