Consultants' bonuses - 'The system for topping up pay is flawed'

When it comes to linking top rates of pay to the toughest jobs, few would argue that hospital consultants are not among the more deserving cases.

All of them had to train hard to get the skills we demand of the NHS. Most are managers as well as medics. And some literally have our lives in their hands.

They have to be rewarded for taking on such responsibility, and the hard work and sometimes exhausting hours that come with it.

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Yes, most people could only dream of salaries of as much as 175,000 - but then again few could do such demanding jobs.

But while it is right that consultants earn large salaries (and hundreds in the Lothians make more than the Prime Minister) the system by which their pay is topped up by "merit" awards is flawed.

For a start, there is a distinct whiff of the old boys' network about the way the sums, of up to 75,000, are decided.

They are handed out after peer review, to levels set by the Scottish Advisory Committee on Distinction Awards - which itself includes retired consultants who themselves benefited from merit awards.

In fact, some may still do so. Once bestowed, merit awards generally keep being paid until they are reviewed - and usually renewed - after five years. So they often continue into retirement.

None of which means individual consultants don't deserve awards. But they must be more transparent, especially at a time when most people are having to forego bonuses or are even losing their jobs.

It would also be more palatable if doctors only got bonuses when they totally commit to the NHS and forego lucrative private work.

Lucky escape

the outcome when a five-year-old girl slipped out of Stenhouse Primary School could have been much more tragic.

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All that happened was that little Cody Pow got a fright, her teacher was worried . . . and her mum became justifiably angry.

But what if Cody had walked on to one of the many busy roads nearby? What if the stranger who found her wasn't the Good Samaritan they turned out to be?

And, more than a decade after Dunblane, what if someone sinister had made their way in through an open exit door instead?

All of which suggests security should be reviewed on an almost daily basis at all primary schools.