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Average GP earnings rise by nearly 3% as expenses skyrocket, reveals official data

Average earnings across all types of GPs in the UK has increased by nearly 3% in the last year, while expenses have also hit an all-time high, according to the latest official data.

While GP partners saw a 4% salary increase after expenses between 2015/16 and 2016/17 – the largest year-on-year increase in the last 11 years – the proportion of gross earnings taken up by expenses rose to 66%.

GPs were supposed to get a 1% pay uplift after expenses in 2016/17 but GP leaders warned the data surrounding increased earnings should be treated ‘cautiously’. 

They said that with GP numbers in decline, the remaining GPs are ‘picking up the extra workload and so working longer more intense sessions each day’.

The official publication from NHS Digital, for the year 2016/17, showed the average GP partner earned £105,500 after expenses, compared with £101,300 in 2015/16. Meanwhile, the average income for salaried GPs increased by 1.7% to £56,800.

Across the UK, all GPs experienced an increase in pay in 2016/17. However, Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP Committee chair, told Pulse the data also reveals a 23% pay cut since 2006/7 when the the average earnings across all types of GPs in the UK was £100,676 compared with £92,500 in 2016/17.

Dr Vautrey said the latest figures ‘provide signs that the contract agreements we have recently made are starting to deliver for GPs’.

But he added: ‘We need to treat this information cautiously as it coincides with a large fall in the number of GPs and, with practices often struggling to find GPs to replace those leaving the practice, it has often meant those GPs remaining picking up the extra workload and so working longer more intense sessions each day.’

Meanwhile, the average total expenses for GP partners in the UK rose by nearly 9% in the last year from £186,900 in 2015/16 to £203,200 in 2016/17.

Dr Vautrey said: ‘The expenses to earnings ratio is now at an all time high, and is evidence that practices are both investing in practice staff but also that they are facing huge cost pressures to keep their practices running. This is something the partnership review needs to take in to account.’

The expenses to earnings ratio, which represents the proportion of gross earnings taken up by expenses, was 66% in 2016/17 – an increase of nearly one percentage point since 2015/16.

The report said: ‘Since 2005/06, expenses have been increasing at a faster rate than income before tax for GPMS contractor GPs in the UK, resulting in an expenses to earnings ratio which has grown each year since then.’

Last week, offical data revealed that full-time equivalent GP numbers have dropped by 523 since March, with the NHS losing nearly 5,000 GP partners in a decade.

In an effort to make the GP partnerships more attractive, the Government launched a review of the model earlier this year, with the terms of reference stating that it would look into bringing aspects of the locum model to partnerships.

This year, the Government announced that GPs will recieve a 2% pay rise backdated to April, including the 1% pay rise already agreed as part of the contract negotiations.