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TUC Congress backs HCSA call for action to halt the SPA squeeze

Over 500 TUC delegates gathered in Brighton voted for a position that acknowledged HCSA’s “deep concern” that the local drive to reduce SPA time well below the 7.5-2.5 ratio - as detailed in the national 2003 consultant contract - could impact on patient care.

Moving one of the association's two motions this year, HCSA’s Dr Paul Donaldson branded the move by many Trusts to cut back on SPA time “deplorable,” warning that it would ultimately have a major impact on patient care.

The HCSA motion noted: “This time is vital for individual hospital consultants to ensure they are up to date and informed of all speciality related developments and advances and improvements in practice. It is also in place so that junior doctors, the hospital consultants of tomorrow, receive clinical teaching and mentoring.”

From the podium Dr Donaldson, an HCSA executive member and consultant microbiologist, warned:

“Trusts see lower SPA allocations as a way to get more clinical work out of Consultants.

“More clinical work equals more throughput equals better value for money.

“This, however, ignores the value of the work that is done in SPA time, which in many ways is what defines a Consultant.”

The motion follows the results of polling of HCSA members on the subject of SPA time which suggests a major and widescale squeeze.

Half of respondents said their SPA time had been reduced in the past five, and eight in 10 of these reported that the cut was imposed.

As a result, those affected reported a major reduction in the time available to carry out important research, professional development and teaching tasks.

Dr Donaldson noted: “Congress, this situation is deplorable. It is not good for Consultants, it is not good for the future of the NHS, and it is not good for the patients we treat.”

He added: “For the future of our health service, this squeeze has to stop.”

As a result of its initial findings HCSA now intends to step to campaign on this crucial issue facing current and future Consultants.