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Last Updated: Friday, 2 September 2005, 00:31 GMT 01:31 UK
UK GPs top European pay league
GPs in the UK earn twice their Spanish and Italian counterparts
Family doctors in the UK outstrip their European counterparts in the pay stakes, according to a poll.

GPs take home about 50,000 on average after tax - twice as much as doctors in Spain and Italy, the study revealed.

An elite 17% were taking home more than 69,000, the poll by GP magazine and other European health journals found.

Health bosses said the true test of whether GPs were worth the money was still to come, while doctors' leaders said it was hard to make comparisons.

The high levels of pay come after a new contract kicked in for GPs last year, which as well as giving them pay rises meant they could make thousands of pounds in bonuses on top for meeting performance goals.

Data released earlier this week revealed 91% of GP targets had been met.

UK - 49,947
Germany - 49,299
France - 42,037
Spain - 25,926
Italy - 22,607

More than 200 GPs were polled in each country by research firm Stethos on behalf of the magazines and asked about pay, patient numbers and consultation length.

While UK GPs had the best rates of pay, German doctors saw the most patients - 63 a day on average.

French GPs had the longest average consultations - more than 17 minutes, compared to nearly 10 minutes for British patients.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA's GPs committee, said it was "difficult" to make comparisons as GPs across Europe performed different jobs.

"Family doctors in the UK tend to do a far more comprehensive job than is done elsewhere in the EC.

Risk management

"Unlike most other places we have a gatekeeper role, involving risk management, which has proved to be a cost effective way of operating the health service.

"GPs undertake nine out of 10 patient consultations in the NHS.

"On top of this, we have fewer GPs per thousand population than most of the rest of Europe. We would argue that we play a significantly more important role in the health service than often applies in other countries."

Germany - 63 patients a day on average for 9 minutes each
UK - 47 patients for 10 minutes
Spain - 46 patients for 7 minutes
France - 24 patients for 17 minutes
Italy - 21 patients for 16 minutes

Jessica Allen, a senior researcher at the Institute for Public Policy Research, said: "From all the surveys that are done patients seem to have a high level of satisfaction with GPs.

"They also have a key role to play in the public health agenda. All in all I think we are getting good value for money.

"And it is important to remember there are still issues with recruitment and retention. Good pay is a way of tackling this."

A spokesman for the NHS Confederation, which represents health service managers, said quality of care had been improving recently.

But he added: "Patient surveys have previously demonstrated high levels of satisfaction with GP services but this autumn's public consultation on 'out of hospital' care should provide us with more concrete evidence about the views of the public on GP services."

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