GP Contracts 'Bad Deal For Taxpayers'

The new contract for GPs in England has cost the Department of Health £1.76 billion more than originally budgeted for, a report by the National Audit Office has found.

The report also found that, in the first two years of the contract, productivity has fallen by an average of 2.5% per year. GPs were working on average seven hours less per week than in 1992, although this was partly because of the removal of the responsibility for out of hours care.

The report also found that the annual average pay of a GP partner was £113,614 - an increase of 58% since 2002-03. However, the average salary of GPs employed by practices increased by only 3% in the first two years.

The NAO also found that, while the number of consultations has increase, these were not in proportion with the increase in costs.

Tim Burr, Head of the National Audit Office, said: "There is no doubt that a new GP contract was needed and there are now 4,000 more GPs than five years ago.

"But in return for higher pay, we have yet to see real increases in productivity. The extra money flowing into practices has largely benefited GP partners rather than rewarding other important members of the practice team. Primary Care Trusts now need to deliver to patients the benefits that were expected in return for GPs increase in pay."

Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said that the government welcomed the report and would be discussing what further measures could be taken to improve both GP and other primary care services.

However, Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Norman Lamb criticised the government's handling of the contract has "staggeringly incompetent".

He said: "It's clear that ministers had no realistic idea of the likely cost to the taxpayer or impact on patient care. People are now almost £2 billion out of pocket while getting less access to their doctor.

"It is crucial that the government addresses the failures in the contract by cooperating with doctors rather than needlessly picking battles with them.

"Ministers must act urgently on this and other independent reviews to reform the contract, so that improving patient services becomes a priority."


Related UK National News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

09 October 2008
GP Pay Deal Proves 'Good For Patients'
A landmark pay deal negotiated by doctors has had the thumbs up from an important Government watchdog - but is also hedged with some doubts over 'productivity'.
14 January 2008
Bank Charges Test Case Set To Open
A High Court test case, which could bring major charges to banks' unauthorised overdraft charges is due to begin today. The case has been brought by the Office of Fair Trading against seven banks, including Barclays, Clydesdale Bank, HBOS and HSBC, and the Nationwide Building Society.
19 January 2005
NAO delivers report on NHS choice target
The National Audit Office (NAO) has reported "significant risks" in struggling plans to meet targets to deliver a choice of four or five hosptials to NHS patients by the end of 2005.
15 September 2003
Out of hours GP service sees big rise in complaints
Complaints about treatment provided by GPs outside normal working hours have risen significantly over the past seven years, according to new figures published by the Medical Defence Union (MDU).
31 October 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.