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Dr Helen McArdle: ‘I am taking less income than as a salaried GP five years ago’

We have reduced partner drawings by 17% compared with 14 months ago, when we took an initial reduction. With all the other changes to funding we anticipate this may need to reduce further over the next year.

Cash flow problems means less than half drawings this month, but I have heard of other practices that have taken no drawings for a month. Full time, before tax, my drawings will be at most £59,000 for the year which is less income than I earned as a salaried GP over 5 years ago.

I am sure the mainstream media will manage to twist the story and I don’t really expect sympathy. A bigger issue than partner drawings is that 60% of NHS staff have been denied a 1% pay rise this year. It is a strange world we live in where unearned income from property ownership and inheritance is ok, high earners like footballers and billionaire entrepeneurs are lauded in the media and yet doctors and other NHS staff are now denigrated and insulted by the same media. 

I guess I know how hard we all worked and continue to work to deserve our income. It doesn’t help our cause that there are divisions, resentments and misunderstandings over pay, workload and conditions between partners, salaried and locum GPs (I have been all three and understand all perspectives), between primary and secondary care doctors, between doctors and nurses…I could go on. 

Our current priority is maintaining practice income. There has been such a rapid decline in practice income along with an exponential rise in costs and workload in the last five years. It feels deliberate. Many partners in the UK are taking early retirement or moving abroad. New trainees don’t want to take on partnerships. The remaining partners are really feeling the strain. We all need to stay well because if anyone leaves or goes off sick that strain intensifies.

Perhaps that is the intention – practices implode and private providers step in and take the helm. The workforce becomes salaried. Politicians need to understand that GPs as independent contractors are excellent value for money. If they want a privatised and/or entirely salaried service they are going to see costs rise enormously and energetic innovation fall.

Dr Helen McArdle is a GP partner in Cockermouth, Cumbria