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Pay figures reveal GPs as victims of DH spin

The extent to which GPs fell victim to Government spin was revealed this week by revised pay figures showing earnings are much lower than had previously been claimed.

Although GMS GPs did indeed enjoy a healthy rise in the first year of the contract, the increase was 24.8% – not 32.8% as ministers had said last year.

Pay for PMS GPs went up by 19.5% not 26.5% in the revised figures for 2004/05, after removal of GPs' employers superannuation contributions, following protests from the GPC.

The Department of Health used the original disputed figures, released last November, to fuel a PR campaign against 'greedy GPs', which culminated in this year's pay freeze. The figures also uncovered sharp regional variations.GPs in the East of England are the best paid, and earned an average £109,604 in 2004/05, the figures from the NHS Information Centre show.

This is a massive £27,000 more than GPs in Scotland, who earned the least in the UK. GPs in the South-West earned an average of £89,341 – the lowest in England, despite it being the region where the proportion of expenses related to income was the highest.

PMS GPs in London earned the most, an average of £121,363. They also had the highest average expenses. PMS GPs in the West Midlands earned just under £300 less than those in London but their expenses were almost £20,000 lower.

GPs who worked in rural practices earned 10% more than those in urban practices.

Dr Laurence Buckman, acting GPC chair, said the regional variations were caused by the effects of list sizes and expenses. He said that the South-West had come out particularly badly because it had fewer dispensing practices than other rural areas. He added that 'colossal running costs' related to premises and staff costs were to blame for the low earnings of GMS GPs in London.

'Unless you have a London payment inevitably London doctors don't do so well.'

The figures also showed that GPs who worked in smaller practices earned more than those in larger practices. The average income of single-handers was 23% higher than those working in practices with six or more partners. Single-handers earned an average of £119,404, GPs in two- or three-partner practices £102,867, those in four- or five-partner practices £97,944 and those in six-plus partner practices £96,809.

Dr Michael Taylor, chair of the Small Practices Association, said he thought the figure for single-handers was 'suspect'. But he admitted single-handers might earn slightly more because most would also work 3-5% longer hours and some were also preparing to retire and therefore would not 'have quite the same eye on the future as other practices'.

The Department of Health has consistently cited inaccurately high GP earning figures to justify its pay freeze DH spin over GPs' pay revealed by new figures

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