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GPC rejects warning over pay rise threat

GP negotiators have rejected accountants' claims that the big pay rises they promised for GPs from the new contract would be wiped out by rocketing practice expenses.

Medical accountants have warned GPs' costs would increase at least 23 per cent over the next 18 months, eating away this year's 11 per cent

increase and the 46 per cent average rise in the following three years.

Negotiators had based their pay rise prediction on a 23 per cent rise in expenses over the next three years.

GPC joint-deputy chair Dr Simon Fradd said the accountants' findings were not borne out by the findings of the Technical Steering Committee, the body that monitors GP earnings and expenditure.

'Accountants can only have their first returns for 2003,' he said. 'I suspect they are not statistically significant. The committee takes an enormous sample of tax returns which no single accountant can do.'

The last accounts examined by the steering committee were for the year ending March 2002.

Dr Fradd, a GP in Nottingham, said the committee would pass data on expenses rises to the pay Review Body to ensure they were taken into account in future global sum payments.

Meanwhile, GPs have back-ed accountants' claims that rising staff costs in particular are driving up expenses.

Dr Sandy Sutherland, chair of Lothian LMC and a GP in Pathhead, said reimbursements were not keeping pace with the growth in expenses. 'Staff budgets have been squeezed so GPs have had to dip into their own pockets.'

Dr Jimmy Courtney, Eastern LMC secretary in Northern Ireland and a GP in Holywood, said GPs had faced a 'substantial' hike in staff salaries in the past year and locum costs were continuing to rise disproportionately. He added: 'If expenses rise faster then anticipated profits will not be as good.'

Dr Fradd said practices would have to balance the cost of paying for staff with the level they want to reach on the quality framework. He said: 'The profit level is in the hands of individual practices.'

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