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GPs' earnings soar in first year of contract

GPs' average earnings rocketed by more than 30 per cent in the first full year of the new contract, writes Christian Duffin.

New figures based on tax returns for 17,897 GPs showed net income for all GPs in 2004/5, including those in dispensing practices, jumped to £106,404.

GMS GPs earned £102,437, up 33 per cent. PMS GPs' earnings rose 26.5 per cent to £116,583. Dispensing GPs' income rose 31.2 per cent to £127,924.

The figures from the NHS Information Centre showed gross earnings, including private work, for all practices combined rose by 17.2 per cent, but expenses rises failed to keep pace, increasing by only 8.2 per cent.

This meant GPs took home 45 per cent of their gross practice income, up from 40.5 per cent in 2003/4.

Health minister Lord Warner used this finding to criticise GPs for not investing the extra money from the new contract in additional services, such as longer opening hours.

NHS Employers said it was 'disappointed' that GPs' personal income had risen so much.

But GPC chair Dr Hamish Meldrum said GPs 'deserved every penny'.

He said: 'GPs are still among the public's most popular and well-trusted workers. The pay is based on 52.5 hours a week, whereas our consultant colleagues' pay is based on 40.

'I make no apologies that GPs have done relatively well. The pay rises reflect many years of relative under-funding.'

Dr George Leather, a GP in Leicester, said GPs were 'only being paid for what was agreed under the contract'.

The rise was justified, he added, because GPs have made evidence-based improvements to patient care. But some patients would perceive GPs were paid too much, Dr Leather said.

Dr David Bevan, a dispensing GP from Upwell in Cambridge-shire, said the figures were well above what he earned, but that his colleagues' rises were justified.

'Nobody argues about Boots making a profit. I think people and other GPs should just get over it.'

Dispensing GPs' income will fall this year, Dr Bevan said, because the Government has cut reimbursement for dispensing category M drugs.

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