Will publishing earnings backfire on GPs?
NHS England is pushing ahead with plans to compel GPs to publish their individual earnings, but will it backfire on the profession, asks Alex Matthews-King
GPs will have to publish their individual net earnings from 2016/17 under radical plans to increase transparency, revealed by NHS England.
Practices will be required to publish a single figure showing the average earnings for GP partners and salaried GPs on their website by April 2016, as part of the 2015/16 contract deal.
But NHS England said this was an ‘interim solution’ before it pushes ahead with ‘publishing individual GP net earnings in 2016/17’.
The formula for calculating GP earnings has been the subject of negotiations between the GPC and NHS England since the requirement to publish pay was announced in last year’s contract.
The 2015/16 GP contract in England says practices must publish the mean practice earnings per GP – including salaried GPs and locums working in the practice longer than six months – for contractual income from NHS England, CCGs and local authorities by March 2016.
Income from premises and employee superannuation payments will be exempt. The GPC and NHS England are negotiating over the final dataset to be included.
Alongside the mean figure, practices will publish the number of full and part-time GPs associated with the published figure. However, Pulse has learned the average figure will not take into account the hours that part-time GPs work, meaning practices where part-timers work more hours will be seen as higher earning overall.
In a letter to the profession, GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the concept of publishing pay was more ‘fair’ than the estimates that are currently published. The most recent figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show average GP partner pay at £102,000 in 2012/13 and salaried GPs earning £56,000.
He said: ‘This will provide a much fairer indication of GP NHS contract earnings than the figures currently published annually by the HSCIC, which include NHS income unrelated to the contract as well as private income, and which have resulted in exaggerated headlines in the media.’
But a letter from NHS England to area teams states: ‘This is an interim solution until arrangements are finalised for publishing individual GP net earnings in 2016/17.’
‘Publishing pay will shock the public’
Dr Tracey Vell, honorary secretary of Manchester LMC
Dr Nagpaul said there was no agreement to publish individual earnings from 2016. He said: ‘We have not got to that point. The arrangement at the moment is that it is not named, not individual, but will strip away all the inflated sums of money including non-NHS money that are currently promoted as part of GP pay.’
Dr Tracey Vell, honorary secretary of Manchester LMC, criticised the plan. She said: ‘Publishing pay will shock the public and, although it will backfire on politicians, is also a pointless exercise.’
Bob Senior, chair of the Association of Independent Specialist Medical Accountants and head of medical services at Baker Tilly, warned the plans could have unexpected consequences.
He told Pulse: ‘Publishing GP income could give some very unwelcome results.
‘In some areas, doctors are on quite low salaries because there is a very unequal market. So, all of a sudden, populations that are currently difficult to doctor will have no winners – because they’re not going to attract GPs.’