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Singlehanded GPs are questioning their future because of a widening pay gap with larger practices.

Small practices claim the new contract is not only failing to deliver promised pay rises but has revealed massive income discrepancies.

Dr Peter Jolliffe, Devon LMC chief officer, said income levels were now more transparent and singlehanders could see their earnings lagged behind larger practices.

This had prompted four singlehanders in the county to resign in the last three months. 'It's the fact that they know what everyone else is earning,' he said.

Dr John Eggleton, a single-handed GP in Exeter, said he had no option but to move to a larger practice in the autumn as he faced a pay cut of more than 10 per cent.

He said he was already earning just 60 per cent of his neighbours' pay before the new contract. 'It's not financially viable,' Dr Eggleton said. 'Even if I hit all the targets there is still a pay cut of more than 10 per cent.'

Small Practices Association chair Dr Michael Taylor said the pay gap between small and large practices was widening because of the Government's refusal to include a disecon-omies of scale factor in the Carr-Hill formula.

'This has had a big impact. Smaller practices have traditionally had a lower income but the difference in rates of pay is probably greater now than it has ever been.'

The GPC was mystified over claims of pay cuts and said it needed to see evidence of how they had occurred.

GPC deputy-chair Dr Laurence Buckman, a singlehander in north London, said: 'If what this GP says is true I would be terribly concerned. But my calculation on my own income is that it will not happen. I would be barmy to negotiate a pay cut for myself.'

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