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Fight this fat-cat spin

The public now sees GPs as fat cats. Phil says it's time the profession sharpened its claws

The public now sees GPs as fat cats. Phil says it's time the profession sharpened its claws

Doctors should have their pay cut if they don't hit targets, according to Professor Alan Maynard, professor of health economics at York University. His theory is this: demerit awards are more effective than bonuses. The NHS should consider taking away up to 2 per cent of GPs' salary if we don't clock whatever random numbers they commit us to this year.

Personally, I enjoy hearing from our distant cousins in their ivory towers from time to time. They are paid from the same public purse that we are. They've got a nice indoor job with no heavy lifting (a bit like mine, really) and I appreciate that they have to say something every now and then to justify their salaries. Tell us how to do our jobs, why not?

To hell with our hard-earned wisdom. Sort us out, in our naivety. We have so much to learn.Someone up in the higher echelons must be asking Professor Maynard: 'Tell us, Prof, how do we get more work from the doctors without paying them more?' And Professor Maynard must be bending his intellect to this Byzantine problem. 'Fine 'em if they don't make your targets.' 'What targets?' 'That's up to you,' sayeth the sage. And here we all are now, tilting at windmills.

In fact, Professor Maynard's ravings are but a tiny part of our problems. Our professional representatives, in the form of the GPC, have rolled over and accepted a zero per cent pay rise. I could live with a zero per cent pay rise, if that were the true scenario. I have a decent standard of living and my family would not suffer if I were no better off this year than last. But that's not what a zero per cent pay rise means.

Our staff have every expectation of an inflation-equalling pay boost, we have rising expenses and increased QOF commitments that mean higher investment. And then there's inflation at 4.5 per cent.What a zero pay rise really means is a pay cut of between 6 and 8 per cent. In my practice this month we have had to reduce our drawings by 500 clams each, and that's just the start.

Public enemy

I have to doff my cap to the Government; the spin has been remarkable. The general public are under the impression that I have had a 30 per cent pay rise (wrong), my income has reached £120,000 (wrong), and that this year my pay, greedy GP that I am, has stayed the same (wrong).

In reality my pay went up about 10 per cent last year, and this year it will come all the way back down. And yet my workload is still rising. I'm running hard to stay still. We have been ruthlessly manipulated. Our public image has been expertly undermined. We are now the apparent fat cats of the NHS, our insatiable pay demands crippling our revered health service. We carry the can. We always did, but now it's a much heavier can.

I wouldn't care so much if my mouth was stuffed with gold, but it isn't. We are not all that politically savvy as a profession – our priorities tend to lie elsewhere. But within a few months, economic reality will kick in. We will realise how royally we have been shafted. And if we roll over and do nothing, what will stop the mandarins from taking the next inevitable profession-dismantling step? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland and PPA and MJA Columnist of the Year

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