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GP partner pay surges while salaried doctors stagnate

GP partner earnings have increased far more dramatically than those of salaried GPs or practice nurses since the GMS contract, the National Audit Office report has controversially concluded.

The report's findings were immediately rejected by the GPC, but have prompted outrage among leaders of salaried doctors and nurses. There are fears primary care may become increasingly riven with resentment over differing pay levels.

The average pay of GP partners in England increased by 58% in the first three years of the new contract, compared with a 3% increase among their salaried colleagues. Over the same period, the report warned the income of practice nurses had ‘reduced in real terms'.

The findings follow Pulse's recent investigation revealing growing resentment among salaried GPs over a perception that they were being exploited on pay and workload.

In the first three years of the new contract, the report claimed the pre-tax home pay of GP partners in England - including income from private sources - increased by 58% from £72,011 in 2002/03 to £113,614 in 2005/06. In contrast, average pay for a salaried GP in England was £46,905, an increase of 3% since the contract.

The report said the large increase in partner pay had largely arisen from ‘a combination of increased practice income and a smaller increase in the expenses paid out by practices'. But it said practice nurses and salaried GPs, ‘have not benefited to the same extent with pay rises largely in line or below inflation'.

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, vice-chair of the National Association of Sessional GPs, described the difference as ‘staggering'.

He said: ‘How can people can sleep at night? Partners are probably just being very cautious in not awarding these pay rises, but now they really have no choice, when faced with such overwhelming evidence.'

Dr. Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said the report demonstrated practices nurses were ‘underpaid and undervalued' by GPs. ‘It is only fair to expect extra work is recognised in their pay,' he insisted.

But GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said the claim that nurses' pay had fallen in real terms was based on misleading evidence from the Department of Health, and that the figures had to be taken in the context of two years of cutbacks in practice resources.

He said GPs had honoured the pay increases recommended for salaried GPs by the DDRB, and insisted that the BMA ‘always supported paying practice staff well'.

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