This site is intended for health professionals only

GP pay falls yet again as practices grapple with rising expenses, official figures show

GPs’ income dropped yet again in 2011/12, with GMS GPs seeing an average 0.7% decrease and PMS GPs a 1.6% fall, official statistics published today by the Health and Social Care Information Centre reveal.

The total gross earnings of all GPs increased by 0.5% to £267,900, but expenses rose faster – increasing by 1.6% to £164,900. This drove the all-important earnings-to-expenses ratio – the proportion of gross expenses taken up by earnings – up 0.7 percentage points to 61.6%, a new record since the introduction of the nGMS contract in 2004.

The new figures cast fresh doubt on ministers’ claims that small practice funding uplifts have been sufficient to offset practices’ rising staff and premises costs – claims that the GPC has long disputed. In March this year, the health secretary rejected a recommendation from the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Body for a 3.4% uplift in practice funding and instead awarded a 1.32% increase, which the Government insisted would translate to a 1% increase in GPs’ earnings.

The Information Centre’s pay figures paint a bleak picture of practice finances, and show that in real terms GPs’ income has decreased by an average of 2.1% a year since 2004. In 2004, GPs earned an average of £100,170 – which translates to £119,271 in real terms.

They also show:

– For the first time a majority of GPs (50.3%) earned less than £100,000 a year before tax, compared to 48.9% of GPs the year before.

– Average income decreased for GPs in Scotland – to an average of £88,700, compared with £89,300 in 2010/11 – but Welsh GPs saw an increase to £93,300 from £92,300 and Northern Irish GPs enjoyed an increase of 5.4%, from £88,000 to £92,800.

– GPs in the south of England had the lowest earnings of all GPs in England, with an average of £101,100, compared with the English average of £106,100.

– Dispensing GPs saw a 2.4% decrease in average income, down from £118,800 to £115,900.

Salaried doctors also fared badly in 2011/12, the HSCIC found. Salaries decreased to £56,800 for all GPs, compared with 57,600 in 2010/11. The median income before tax was £53,600, compared with £54,500 in 2010/11.

Dr Peter Swinyard, chair of the Family Doctor Association, said GPs were suffering pay decreases across the board.

He said: ‘In our practice they were down 8% last year. In common with lots of GPs, we are now taking active cuts in our drawings of £6,000 to £12,000 a year.’

‘We’d all love a genuine pay freeze. When you see a steady decline in incomes in the past seven years, which is now becoming a crescendo of decrease in the incomes. I think the reductions this year will be up to 5%.’