Almost 90% of GPs earn less than £100,000 a year, new data has shown despite the figures highlighting that payment stretches to more than £600,000 in one case.
Official figures released to the Sun newspaper by NHS Business Services Authority show 5,601 GPs took home £100,000 or more in pensionable pay in 2017/18.
The statistics, which were published under a freedom of information (FOI) request and only look at GP pay of £100,000 or more, show a total of 18 GPs earnt at least £300,000.
But separate NHS workforce statistics show there are currently around 45,625 GPs working in England – meaning only around 12% earn a six-figure sum.
GP leaders said the statistics show the vast majority of the profession is not earning huge sums of money.
They added that for the few that are earning the largest amounts, this is often reflective of the risks involved in running a business.
BMA GP Committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘It’s worth noting that in comparison to the tens of thousands of GPs working across the UK, the group identified in these statistics is extremely small and not reflective of most GPs’ earnings.’
He added: ‘Those shown in this data to be high earners, are more likely to be managing a business operation, set up to manage multiple GP practices, rather than being on the frontline of general practice and seeing patients.’
Professor Azeem Majeed, a GP and professor of primary care at Imperial College London, said: ‘The vast majority of GPs are earning less than £100,000 – and the small number of GPs earning large incomes are likely to be running chains of practices.
‘If the job was lucrative as this data suggests, there would be no workforce crisis in general practice. Clearly, the workload and associated stress is very high and the income for most GPs is not high when compared to NHS staff such as consultants and managers.’
Derby and Derbyshire LMC treasurer Dr Peter Holden said: ‘I will defend those colleagues earning those figures up to £200,000 any day of the week. For starters, many of us are working 60-70 hours a week. We carry enormous responsibility and our job is to exercise a very high degree of judgement and our job is managing uncertainty. That in the city would be awarded three or four times that.’
Research from last year found GP partners’ income decreased by 10% in real terms between 2008 and 2017, which ‘may have contributed to current recruitment and retention problems’ according to the findings.
The latest GP workforce statistics, from September 2019, show there has been a decrease of 1,008 fully-qualified full-time equivalent GPs in England since September 2015 – when former health secretary Jeremy Hunt pledged to increase the workforce by 5,000 by 2020.