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BMA and NHS Employers poles apart in GP pay talks

The two sides in GP pay negotiations are poles apart after NHS managers seized on the media storm over new pay figures to demand substantial concessions from the BMA.

NHS Employers has submitted evidence to the pay review body claiming GP morale is the highest it has been in recent years, and warned pay negotiations would take into account the public perception of GPs as overpaid.

The employers' submission was released in advance of the Department of Health's call for a third consecutive freeze in GPs' pay.

NHS Employers admitted there remained ‘some distance' between its assessment of a fair pay rise for GPs and that of the BMA, which in its submission is pushing for a rise of between 3.6% and 4.3%.

It attacked as ‘disappointing' figures suggesting GPs were taking a higher proportion of practice turnover as income, rather than ploughing it into their practices.

Figures from the Information Centre last week prompted a storm of criticism in the national media over GPs' pay, which for an average partner rose to £110,004 in 2005/6, an increase of 9.8% from the previous year.

GPs took 44.9% of turnover as profit, compared with 43.5% the previous year.

GPC leaders accused the Government of deliberately orchestrating a media campaign against GP pay, in order to ‘soften up' the profession over extended hours.

But NHS Employers submitted evidence to the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body from the latest National Primary Care Research and Development Centre analysis of GP morale. It found 31% were ‘very satisfied' in 2006, compared with only 14% in 2000.

Alistair Henderson, the deputy director of NHS Employers who is heading up its side in negotiations, said he understood the media backlash over GPs' pay. ‘It is clear significantly more has been taken in profit and it's disappointing more has not been used to invest in service expansion.

‘The high publicity over GP access has set a tone and a context to those discussions.'

The BMA said the pay figures were out of date – after two successive pay freezes – and the increase in profit margin was consistent with greater efficiency.

Dr Peter Holden, GPC negotiator, said: ‘There has been a press campaign to soften us up so that they can lean on us to do more work and longer hours.' He said his own practice profits in the last financial year were down by at least 9%, and possibly by as much as 15%.

Health minister Ben Bradshaw responded to the figures by saying GPs should provide a more flexible service for their earnings. ‘We'll be working with GPs to ensure at least 50% of practices extend their hours and to tie GP income more closely to patient experiences.'

Dr Peter Holden: ‘There has been a press campaign to soften us up so that they can lean on us to do more work and longer hours' Dr Peter Holden: ‘There has been a press campaign to soften us up so that they can lean on us to do more work and longer hours'

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