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Friday, 9 February, 2001, 14:08 GMT
GP fury over pay award
Doctor consultation
Doctors leaders say morale low in general practice
GPs are furious that they will receive what they say is a below inflation pay rise this year.

Doctors leaders warn the award will cause low morale within the profession to slump still further.

It was announced by the Department of Health in December that GPs would receive an average pay rise of 4.2% from April. This figure was higher than that announced for doctors in general (3.9%), because some GPs were given special seniority payments.

However, the GP pay system is very complicated, and the British Medical Association says that it has now transpired that the real increase will be just 2.33%.

Average average annual income for GPs will rise to 56,510 from April.

At a time when we are being encouraged to work harder to improve the NHS, this pay award is derisory

Dr John Chisholm, British Medical Association
However, GPs have been given less money to cover their practice expenses.

As they are effectively expected to pay part of this from their own pockets, the BMA says that will eat into the pay rise.

The government, however, argues that GPs have been given enough cash to meet their overheads, and their pay packet will be unaffected.

Dr John Chisholm, chair of the British Medical Association's GP Committee (GPC) said the award was "pathetically low".

He warned it would have a detrimental effect on the numbers of doctors entering the profession.

General practice was already suffering recruitment and retention problems, he said, and a below inflation pay award would only make this worse.

He said: "Morale amongst general practitioners is already very low.

"At a time when their workload has never been higher they felt the December pay award was paltry and unhelpful for the recruitment and retention crisis in the workforce."

Dr Chisholm said that the independent pay review body - which recommends GP pay levels to the governmment - had "abjectly" failed to make any of the changes needed to attract new GPs into medicine.

Over paid expenses

"At a time when we are being encouraged to work harder to improve the NHS, this pay award is derisory," he said.

Dr John Chisholm
Dr John Chisholm is angered by the pay increase
The pay award could be reduced still further by a recommendation from the pay review body that each GP should pay back 248 following an over-payment of expenses in previous years.

The government has agreed that they will suspend this while they are continuing talks with the GPC.

The government also feels that GPs were overpaid by 20 million for implementing the flu vaccination programme.

Doctors leaders disputed this and the cash - amounting to about 700 per GP in England - is to stay in the pay pool.

However, the BMA has objected to a goverment ruling that the money must be ploughed into investments for GP practices, infrastructure and services.

Despite his anger, Dr Chisholm said the BMA would be working closely with the government to try and beat the recruitment and retention crisis.

He said: "The government has rightly acknowledged that there are difficulties in recruitment, retention and morale in the profession and the General Practitioners Committee is keen to work urgently with them to avoid future difficulties with the balancing mechanism."

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See also:

18 Dec 00 | Health
How GPs are paid
18 Dec 00 | Health
Pay boost for NHS staff
09 Jan 01 | Health
Row as doctors' pay bill spirals
18 Dec 00 | Health
'Inflation-plus' rise for nurses
01 Dec 00 | Scotland
More pay for overworked doctors
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