§ Mrs. Curtis-Thomas
To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the rejection of the proposed new consultants contract; and what action his Department plans to take as a result of this. 
§ Mr. Hutton
The Department was disappointed that a majority of consultants voted against the new contract, agreed with the British Medical Association in June 2002. We remain committed to rewarding those consultants who achieve the most for the national health service, as well as offering a more flexible approach to572W working patterns, better opportunities to control consultant workload and improvements in the way consultant time is managed.
To achieve these aims we announced on 17 April 2003 a new framework for rewarding those consultants who do the most for the NHS. The new framework provides flexibility to NHS trusts locally in choosing how best to use extra resources to reward consultants, reform working practices and improve patient services. There is a national framework within which local health services have a choice of:Investing in local implementation of the new contract where there is significant consultant support for doing so; andInvesting in new annual incentives for consultants who make the biggest contribution to improving patient care.