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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 October 2007, 10:04 GMT
GP pay 110,000 after a 10% rise
GP writing a prescription
GPs pay has risen since a new contract came in
Average family doctor pay in the UK rose by 10% to 110,000 in 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.

We are taking action to tie GP income more closely to patient experiences
Ben Bradshaw, health minister

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 pay rises have been fingered for contributing to the deficits with which the health service has been struggling.

Complaints

And many patients have said they are unhappy with the new out-of-hours arrangements with the number of complaints soaring as a result.

The GP contract overhauled the way doctors were paid.

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.

There is a feeling that compared with hospital doctors, GPs have too big a share of the financial pie
Roger Goss, of Patient Concern

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."

Roger Goss, of Patient Concern, said: "As a result of the contract we have shorter opening hours and a poorer out-of-hours service.

"Quality of care is more important to patients than pay, but there is a feeling that compared with hospital doctors, GPs have too big a share of the financial pie."

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said it was right GPs were well paid, but added they should be given more responsibility for controlling local budgets - currently the responsibility of primary care trusts.

"They are being treated, by this government, like well-paid production line employees."

Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb said: "GPs should be well paid, but as a consequence patients must be able to get a high standard of out-of-hours care, which is currently dangerously patchy."

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.



SEE ALSO
Q&A: GPs' pay
31 Oct 07 |  Health
Half of GPs 'earn over 100,000'
17 Jul 07 |  Health
Average GP pay rises to 106,000
29 Nov 06 |  Health
GPs 'earn up to 250,000 a year'
18 Apr 06 |  Health

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