At work blog



Programmed activities

Consultants’ PAs (programmed activities) are under scrutiny as never before, with many trusts trying to squeeze the time spent on supporting professional activities.

A little scrutiny on members’ behalf is needed too, as shown by a recent case that recovered £19,000 in back pay for one doctor.

A consultant in trauma and orthopaedics was promised an additional, 11th PA by his clinical director when he transferred to the new contract in 2008.

It was in recognition of the doctor’s increased on-call commitments.

The consultant approached us last year because he was aware there might be a discrepancy in his back pay. So I requested a copy of his last agreed job plan. It only contained 10 PAs.

For around two years the doctor had not been paid for the extra PA. It was not a great battle to secure the money, but it did take nine months from first contacting the trust human resources department to the back pay being awarded.

The problem probably arose because of a lack of communication within the trust. Although a clinical director had agreed the extra PA, the payroll department had failed to amend its records.

There is also a wider issue here about checking payslips, because errors occur with worrying regularity.

This is particularly the case with junior doctors. Changes in banding, the acquisition of increments, and numerous moves between employers can lead to trusts failing to keep up with changes in pay.

Clearly, trusts should get this right, but they don’t always do so, and BMA members can help themselves by regularly checking their payslips or by using our checking service when they get new contracts.

For consultants, it is essential they also check that their job plans correlate with their pay.

If you wish to access the BMA’s contract checking service, which is available to all members, send your contract and membership number to or contact an adviser on 0300 123 123 3.

Posted in:  Contracts Pay

Tags:  BMA regional services in England consultants contracts changing contracts SPAs T&Cs pay


  • S Parker

    12 September 2012

    I agree with the broad gist of this article, however the suggestion that medical students spend time in a wheelchair is somewhat flawed.

    Near the beginning of the clinical phase of my medical school training we were given a day of "disability awareness" in which we had to put on blindfolds, try being in a wheelchair, wear glasses with prisms in, etc, and were told that it was so that we could experience what being disabled was like. Having empathy with disabled people is important, but putting a blindfold on for 20 minutes does NOT give one an insight into what being blind is like - when we got fed up we could simply take the blindfold off, which of course someone who is visually impaired cannot do.

    Before attending medical school I volunteered with after-school and respite care groups for children with learning difficulties, and also sailed on the tall ship Tenacious, where crew members of different physical abilities work alongside one another.

    What the Paralympics has shown us is real disabled people achieving amazing things. If we want to train doctors who have an understanding of disability politics and an awareness of the ways in which societal structures disable people with impairments, then I think that spending quality time with disabled people will provide deeper and more empathetic learning than having to spend a day in a wheelchair.

  • vwljkxpk

    3 February 2014


  • vwljkxpk

    3 February 2014



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