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GP earnings hit a five year low as practice expenses rise

Authors: Adrian O’Dowd 

Publication date:  28 Sep 2012


The growing costs of running a practice mean that GP income has fallen to a five year low—declining £6000 since 2005-6.

Figures from the NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre show that the average income for contract holding GPs before tax was £104 100 in 2010-11—a fall of 1.5% on the previous year and almost £6000 (€7500; $9700) lower than in 2005-6.[1]

The BMA said that GPs were providing an “exceptional value for money service” and were effectively accepting a pay cut so they could maintain a high level of service to patients.

The report takes into consideration the earnings and expenses of full and part time GPs and covers both their NHS and private income.

Income for contractor GPs was still higher than in 2004-5—the year new contracting arrangements for GPs were introduced—when their income was £100 170. Contractor GPs formed most (around 80%) of the GP workforce in 2010-11.

Rising expenses, such as premises and staff costs, were the main reason that GPs were taking home less money. Although average gross earnings for contractor GPs rose to £266 500—a 1.5% increase on 2009-10—this was undermined by their expenses, which rose 3.5% from 2009-10 to £162 400 in 2010-11.

Around half of contractor GPs (49%) had income before tax of less than £100 000, while the number of highest earning contractor GPs—with income before tax of more than £200 000—fell to 720—2.2% of the total—from 900 the previous year.

At £107 700 before tax England’s contractor GPs earned more than GPs in Scotland (£89 300), Wales (£92 300), and Northern Ireland (£88 000).

For salaried GPs, the UK average income before tax in 2010-11 was £57 600, compared with £58 000 in 2009-10.

The NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre’s chief executive, Tim Straughan, said: “From our figures, we can see that the fall in actual income before tax for the latest year is influenced by the increase in expenses that practices are facing.

“While contractor GPs’ gross earnings are continuing to move upwards, this small rise is offset by the bigger increase they face in the cost of running their practices.”

Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the BMA’s GP committee, said that GPs were being treated unfairly compared with their peers.

“It concerns me that at a time when comparable doctors and others within the health service during this time have either seen their pay rise or pay frozen, GPs have seen their pay fall,” he said.

On the issue of expenses, Vautrey said: “The problem is that the expenses have continued to rise at a time when the income coming into the practice is only increasing by a very small rate, and the government in most recent years has insisted that GPs deliver efficiencies—effectively working harder for the same resource.

“GPs have tried wherever possible to honour pay increases to their staff and there are rates and rental costs, heating and lighting costs, paper costs, contacting patients through the post—where charges have gone up—all of the costs of running a practice are ever increasing and yet the resource to run the practice remains pretty static.

“Overall, GPs are providing an exceptional value for money service. What we are seeing is GPs accepting a pay cut in order to maintain the level of service that they provide to their patients, but that can not go on for much longer.”

References

  1. Health and Social Care Information Centre. GP Earnings and Expenses 2010/11: www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/gpearnex1011.

Adrian O’Dowd London

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