31/10/2007

GPs Now Paid £110K

GPs are now enjoying the benefits of the protracted national pay negotiations that led a settlement in 2003/2004.

The average family doctor’s pay in the UK rose by 10% to £110,000 in just 12 months, according to latest figures.

The data from the NHS Information Centre is for the year 2005-6 - the second year of the new GP contract.

It comes after pay rose by 20% in the first year and means GPs have seen pay rise by about £30,000 in two years.

The deal also allowed GPs to opt out of weekend and evening care, which critics say has suffered after private firms and groups of medics were taken on.

But Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the British Medical Association's GPs committee, defended the rises and said family doctors deserved to be paid well. He said: "The job is enjoyable because of our dealing with patients. No business is worth what we do.

"Most of the increase in GP pay in recent years has come from the extra resources that GPs earn if they offer higher quality patient care.

"The outcome from this raised quality is a better standard of health for our patients."

Nonetheless, the combination of pay rises and out-of-hours care has meant both the government - for agreeing the deal - and doctors - for making the most of it - have come under heavy attack in recent years.

The hard-fought GP ‘New Deal’ contract overhauled the way doctors were paid, with most of the negotiations taking place in 2003.

The result means that about two thirds of their pay is effectively made up by a basic salary with the rest being paid dependent on performance in carrying out a range of services such as vaccinations and blood pressure monitoring.

Health Minister Ben Bradshaw maintained care had improved and said it was right GPs were rewarded for that.

But he also said he wanted to see doctors adopt more flexible opening hours - in the past few months the government has been telling GPs it wants to see more evening and weekend clinics.

"We will be working with GPs to ensure that at least 50% of practices extend their opening hours and we are taking action to tie GP income more closely to patient experiences."

The figures, which cover GP partners who run the practices rather than those employed on a salary, also show disparity when broken down by country.

GPs in England earned an average of £113,600, compared to £102,200 in Wales, £98,700 in Northern Ireland and £90,600 in Scotland. Doctors said this was linked to patient list sizes.

At the top end of the pay, over 1,000 GPs were earning over £200,000. These are likely to be doctors who run a pharmacy as well as surgery.

Many predict GP pay will not rise greatly in the next two years after the basic pay was frozen in 2006-7 and 2007-8. However, it is still possible the performance-related element may cause an increase.

(BMcC)

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