nhsNHS consultants are to engage in talks about new contracts that could see them doing more evening and weekend work and guaranteeing seven-day care for patients.

Formal contract negotiations with NHS Employers would start in the autumn but the British Medical Association (BMA) has asked its members whether they agree. The union asks how, if at all, could the way that consultants are paid and rewarded be made fairer, what they think about the case for greater consultant presence in hospitals at weekends and evenings, and how important is it to maintain a nationally negotiated contract.

However, the anonymous survey is not locked in any way and there are no checks as to who is taking part, so essentially anyone can go on to the BMA website and take part, not just members.

In a joint statement with the BMA, Dean Royles, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, said: “This is an important step towards modernising the consultants’ contract. We are hopeful that we can negotiate changes which will be better for doctors, employers and crucially our patients. Our discussions with the BMA over the development of these heads of terms have been extremely useful and we very much hope to achieve a mandate to enter into formal negotiations.”

Mark Newbold, chair of the NHS Confederation hospital forum added: “Consultants are essential in providing high-quality care and need to be further empowered to do so, rewarding their career choice and enabling them to use their skills at best. It is therefore important to ensure that consultant contracts contribute to meet these objectives, including changes that will facilitate seven-day care for patients, while safeguarding staff interest and wellbeing.”

Only BMA and NHS employer representatives for England and Northern Ireland are to discuss possible changes to consultants’ terms and conditions. BMA consultants’ committees in Scotland and Wales believe a UK-wide approach is not in the best interests of consultants in their respective devolved nations.