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PMS GPs feel pressure as pay lead shrinks

PMS practices are feeling the heat after a Government drive to crack down on their funding, with latest figures showing they are losing their pay advantage over GMS GPs.

Official NHS figures from The Information Centre also reveal GPs as the victims of Government spin, with both GMS and PMS earning far less than had been claimed.The Information Centre has revised downwards the average pay increase received by all GPs in 2004/5, the first year of the new contract, from 30% to 23%, after taking into account pension contributions.PMS GPs earned only 15% more than their GMS colleagues, compared with 23% two years previously.Average GMS net income excluding contributions to employers' schemes was £91,524 in 2004/5. PMS income was £104,937.Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a GP in Stanmore and chair of the BMA commissioning services development sub-committee, said: 'All PMS GPs feel vulnerable. PCTs are threatening changes to contracts and in some cases giving notice on PMS contracts. 'Some PCTs in deficit see PMS practices as soft touches and a way to reduce their debts. 'There is a very real wish for PMS GPs to return to GMS contracts, but only if they had funding protection with the MPIG,' he said.Separate figures from The Information Centre vindicate GPs in their dispute with the Government over whether they are investing enough of their pay rise back into their practices.They show that the total number of practice staff rose steeply last year, to 119,642, up from 112,094 in 2005. Health secretary Patricia Hewitt provoked fury among GPs with a claim they were not investing enough in staff.The Department of Health told Pulse it did not wish to retract any previous statements in the light of the two reports and pointed out that GPs' income had still risen sharply.A spokesperson said: 'This does not change anything. Expenses were going down while profits were going up. But we expect that trend to be reversed for 2006/7.'GPC chair Dr Hamish Meldrum admitted that the figures still represented a significant pay award, but said the picture two years on was very different.He pointed out GPs' income was now falling because the Government had frozen pay for two years running.'For the past two years there have been no increases in resources for GPs and their practices – not even a cost-of-living increase for the rising costs of running their practices.'

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