Silks not like consultants

In the Lawyer, 7 April, Nigel Pascoe QC is quoted as commenting that the appointment to silk is equivalent to the appointment of a doctor as a hospital consultant.

This is far from the case. All hospital medical posts below the rank of consultant are training posts and work under the direct supervision of a consultant.

A doctor can only appoint you to a consultancy if there is a post vacant in his hospital department. Appointment is a recognition that the consultant has ceased training and can treat patients without direct supervision. In view of the current funding of the NHS, such posts, particularly in certain disciplines, are rare.

A senior registrar who fails to obtain an appointment cannot carry on as a senior registrar, as his appointment as such will expire. His most common alternative would be general practice. I can think of no parallels in any other profession to the appointment of silk.

S William Lister, Pannone & Partners, Manchester.