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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Pay leap takes PMS GPs over £90k a year

Top-earning GPs are in stable partnerships with a low list turnover, where the doctors trust each other and delegate well to nurses or health visitors.

They are also almost certain to be in a PMS or a dispensing practice and to work long hours.

But GPs in practices where there have been partnership splits, which have high dep-utising costs and poor controls on their finances are likely to come bottom of the pay pile, an annual survey of GP income has found.

Low earners also have a low number of patients and are likely to practise in a deprived area.

The survey of 1,200 practices in England, Scotland and Wales by medical accountants RMT revealed a £14,000 pay gap between PMS and GMS GPs and a continuing disparity between GPs in Scotland and Wales compared with England. Overall, average GP net earnings rose by 5.6 per cent in 2002 to £79,509.

But income for PMS GPs hit £91,885 on average, compared with £77,086 for GMS.

Mike Gilbert, partner at RMT and former chair of the Association of Independent Specialist Medical Accountants, said GPs had seen a 'reasonable' rise.

But he added the increase in average income had been driven solely by PMS.

'It's standstill in GMS,' he said. 'PMS is the cause.'

GPs in Scotland and Wales continue to lag well behind their English counterparts, with Scotland's GPs earning £67,307, almost £10,000 less than the GMS average, the research found. GPs in Wales fared little better with earnings of £70,961.

The highest earning areas of the UK were Oxford and Anglia, with average earnings of £87,470 in each area.

Dispensing GPs' pay averaged £95,504.

Ten tips to become a top earner

 · Have a stable partnership with a low turnover

of partners

 · Have high trust between partners and staff

 · Be a dispensing practice

 · Work long hours

 · Keep deputising costs low

 · Maximise non-GMS earnings

 · Hold regular practice and strategy meetings

 · Delegate to nurses, health visitors, etc

 · Monitor financial information closely

 · Work under PMS

Source: Association of Independent Specialist Medical Accountants

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