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BMJ. 2007 November 10; 335(7627): 960.
PMCID: PMC2072012

Government wants to freeze GPs' pay until 2009, as figures show income rose by 10% in second year of new contract

The government has told a review board that it wants to freeze GPs' pay for the third consecutive year, arguing that pay is an issue that no longer concerns GPs. Any increase should be linked to improvements in the level and quality of services, it says.

The news comes as a study shows that GPs in the United Kingdom earned an average net income (after deduction of expenses but before tax) of £110 000 (€158 000; $230 000) in 2005-6, a 10% increase on the previous year's figure.

The rise means that GPs' income rose by 33% in the two years after they signed up to their new contract, which was introduced in April 2004 (BMJ 2007;335:117 doi: 10.1136/bmj.39280.470440.4E) and which matched a proportion of their pay to the quality of services delivered. In 2004-5 the net income for GPs was calculated as £100 170, a rise of 23% on the previous year.

The latest figures from the NHS Information Centre are based on tax returns of a sample of more than 17 000 self employed GPs. The sample includes full and part time GPs who do private as well as NHS work but not salaried GPs, who tend to earn less.

The centre estimates that, in 2005-6, 58% of GPs in the UK had a net income of more than £100 000, up from 46% in the previous year. And 1222 GPs (3.3% of the national total) had a net income of at least £200 000; in 2004-5 the number was 649 (1.9%). Nearly twice as many GPs earned more than £250 000 in 2005-6 (307 (0.9%)) as in 2004-5 (154 (0.5%)).

The average gross earnings of all GPs in 2005-6 were £245 020, and average expenses were £135 016—a percentage of 55%, which is a decrease of 1.4 percentage points from 2004-5. This follows the trend in previous years of GPs' earnings rising faster than expenses.

The BMA has said the figures reflect earnings before the current two year period began, in which there has been no increase in basic practice resources, representing a cut in income since 2006.

Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA's General Practitioners Committee, said, “We know from a UK-wide GP survey that three quarters of GP principals expect income to go down this year [2007-8]. This is supported by estimates from accountants.

“There is a limit to the efficiencies you can make and the inflation effects you can absorb on a zero pay award—0% for GPs in 2007-8 could actually equate to a 6% cut in income in real terms. Family doctors are now being penalised for rising to the challenge of performance related pay for delivering the quality care the government asked for.”

GPs in England continue to earn more than their colleagues in other parts of the United Kingdom. Average earnings in 2005-6 were £113 600 for GPs in England (a 9.7% rise on the previous year), £98 700 in Northern Ireland (8.2%), £90 600 in Scotland (9.6%), and £102 200 in Wales (11.6%).

Further reading

is at 2005/06 GP Earnings and Expenses Enquiry: Initial Report www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/gpearnex0506


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