NICE must pay GPs more to be its advisers

NICE is currently recruiting clinical members, including GPs, for its four advisory appraisal committees. The successful applicants will spend 11 full days each year attending committees, plus an away day, together with what sounds like a lot of time reading briefing papers.

The GP Record, by Fran Orford
The GP Record, by Fran Orford

Oh yes - and the post is totally unpaid, though expenses will be reimbursed.

My thoughts are unprintable. At a time when ('in order to attract the right calibre of people') bankers get bonuses in the millions and council chief executives can earn up to £570,000, the NHS expects its high-powered advisers to do some hugely responsible decision-making for ... nothing.

To repeat, we are talking about a minimum of 12 working days, and probably much more. Were I to apply, it would take up half my holiday entitlement. Clearly I couldn't do the work in practice time unless the practice was reimbursed. Hospital doctors will only be able to attend if their colleagues cover for them. I believe in paying people properly for their work.

The days are long gone when someone could describe his occupation as 'gentleman' and study science as a hobby. And in case it has escaped the attention of the DoH, we GPs are self-employed. Our practices cannot afford to release us (even for the greater good of the NHS) without adequate compensation. Nor should NICE be hoping that retired doctors will apply: clinicians on a high-powered committee like this need to be top-notch, actively practising and at the cutting edge of NHS medicine.

Sadly, NICE isn't an isolated case. Many national NHS committees have no mechanism for paying their members for their time, responsibility and expertise.

Where is the logic here? Maybe the NHS doesn't value the clinical input it receives; or is too hard-up to pay the fees (unlikely, given the millions it pays its external management consultants). Perhaps it doesn't really want the consultation and therefore won't listen to the opinions given; or hasn't realised that if it wants high-quality people to make high-quality decisions then it has to be prepared to pay for them.

It doesn't bode well for the future quality of DoH decision-making, does it?

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