Anger at doctor's �380,000 salary

THE Government yesterday defended GPs' earnings after an investigation discovered a family doctor in north Essex was taking home more than �300,000 in wages a year.

Roddy Ashworth

THE Government yesterday defended GPs' earnings after an investigation discovered a family doctor in north Essex was taking home more than �300,000 in wages a year.

And yesterday Harwich MP Douglas Carswell said it was “extraordinary” that GPs could be paid so much while the NHS was still failing to find long-term family doctors for surgeries in his constituency.

The revelation about pay came after a newspaper request under the Freedom of Information Act asked primary care trusts across the country for the GP with the highest earnings in their local area.

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The overall highest paid family doctor identified was in NHS North East Essex and earned �380,394.

NHS North East Essex, formerly known as North East Essex Primary Care Trust, covers surgeries predominately in the Colchester and Tendring areas.

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Alan Mack, director of corporate development and governance at the trust, said: "The GP in question has a number of contracts with the local NHS and the figure of �380,000 is based on information the GP supplied and is an accumulative figure covering these various roles.”

The investigation also found that since the introduction of the new GP contract in 2004, doctors can also earn as much as �204 an hour for evening and weekend work.

The Department of Health argued that the new contract has led to improvements in the recruitment and retention of doctors as well as services for patients.

It also said most GPs have seen no increase in their pay over the last three years.

In some cases the figures given by PCTs also included money doctors have to pay for staff salaries and rents.

One GP in Kirklees, which covers Huddersfield and Dewsbury, earned �321,794, while the highest earning GP in the south London boroughs of Sutton and Merton earned �319,000.

A Norfolk GP was taking home �310,000, even after outgoings were subtracted.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Before the new contract GP recruitment and retention was a real problem. Since then we have achieved dramatic improvements in GP services as well as getting better value for money out of the contract.

“Over the last three years, most GPs have had no increase in their pay having enjoyed considerable improvements in their work and payload since the new contract was introduced in 2004.

“In return for this additional investment, we have seen significant improvements in the range and quality of services provided to patients.

“For example, almost all patients are now seen within 48 hours compared to just half 10 years ago, and when patients need to see a doctor they get to spend more time with them.”

However Mr Carswell said: “Even with wages like this, the big problem we see in Tendring is the huge turnover and the difficulty in finding long-term GPs, leading to the use of locums.

“It is extraordinary that amount of money is being paid for GPs, and yet still people can't get to see a GP as and when they need to.

“Recently politicians have rightly been made accountable for what they cost the taxpayer. Bankers have been made accountable.

“Now perhaps it's time for GPs to be made accountable.

“There are areas in my constituency with a real shortage of GPs. It seems the Government has created a system that is totally ineffective in turning taxpayer money into GP healthcare where it is needed most.”

A report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee published in October last year said the new GP contract made it too easy for doctors to earn high salaries through performance-related pay.

The system enables GP practices to earn extra cash for reaching a range of targets, including patient satisfaction and managing long-term conditions such as diabetes and asthma.

The study followed a report from the National Audit Office (NAO) earlier last year which found productivity in relation to GP services had fallen by an average of 2.5% a year.

The report showed GP partners, who run practices, had seen their pay increase 58% since 2002/03 to �113,614 in 2005/06.

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