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Practices ordered to open up accounts to PCT auditors after hunt for high-earning ‘super-GPs’

Exclusive GPs are facing ‘outrageous’ requests from PCTs to hand over full partnership accounts and tax returns in probes launched after the Daily Mail’s hunt for high-earning ‘super-GPs’.

A series of PCTs in the West Midlands have launched investigations into GP income, including money earned from private work, after warning of concerns over ‘value for money’.

The move comes amid growing pressure nationally for GPs to provide more data on practice income, with the BMA itself voting at its conference that ‘all financial transactions between the NHS and external contactors’ – which would include GP practices – should be made public.

NHS Birmingham and Solihull, which covers four PCTs, is demanding a sample of 14 GP practices hand over full partnership tax returns and year-end income and expenditure accounts to auditors. The data requested is for 2009/10, the most ‘recent complete data set’.

The PCT cluster said the move followed concerns after some GP partners in Birmingham declared pensionable profits in excess of £250,000, compared with a cluster average of £100,000.

In a letter to GPs, Diane Reeves, medical director of NHS Birmingham and Solihull, wrote: ‘Our internal auditors have been commissioned to review income and expenditure of a sample of practices.’

‘Ensure this sample includes a range of practices demonstrating high, average and low profitability when compared with gross practice income. Also do this for GPs individually declaring pensionable profits in excess of £250,000.’

‘It will potentially reduce the amount of time they will need to spend with you if certain information is provided in advance of their visit. The information in question is: 2009/10 full practice partnership tax return and 2009/10 year-end practice income and expenditure account.’

Birmingham LMC said it was seeking ‘urgent legal clarification’ from the GPC and warned practices handing over information could see it being released to the media under the Freedom of Information Act in future.

In a letter to practices, Dr Robert Morley, executive secretary of Birmingham LMC, said: ‘Our view is provision of the requested information is wholly unreasonable and goes beyond the requirements of the regulations.’

Dr Morley told Pulse the PCT’s request had been sparked by recent high-profile media coverage of GP earnings. Last month, a Daily Mail story headlined ‘rise of the super GP’ reported a GP in Birmingham was earning as much as £660,000 a year.

Dr Morley said: ‘We have to release our NHS gross funding. We don’t have to release private income or tax returns and to demand it is outrageous. These details are between us, our accountants and Inland Revenue.’

Dr Diane Reeves, medical director of the Birmingham and Solihull NHS Cluster, said: ‘This is a reasonable request – an important part of our role is to ensure value for money.’