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GP earnings rise by 2.5%, while expenses hit ‘record high’

by Lea Legraien
30 August 2019

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GPs’ average earnings in the UK increased by 2.5% last year, while expenses have reached a record high, new figures appear to show. 

Data released yesterday by NHS Digital showed that GP partners’ expenses rose by 7%, to £217,500, with the proportion of earnings being spent on expenses hitting ‘a record high’, the BMA said. 

However, GP leaders suggested this could be as a result of the declining number of GPs to share the funding being put into general practice after different figures revealed the number of fully qualified full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs in England has fallen by 2% since June 2018.

Expenses continue to rise

Yesterday’s figures also showed that expenses are continuing to rise, and the ratio of expenses to earnings has increased.

The yearly publication from NHS Digital for 2017/18 showed the average GP partner earned £109,100 before tax – a ‘statistically significant’ 3.5% increase from £105,500 in 2016/17 – while the average income for salaried GPs rose by 2.9%, from £56,800 to £58,400.

Overall, the average earnings for all GPs across the UK increased by 2.5% to £94,800. 

Pay uplift

As part of the new five-year contract for general practice, staff, including GPs, received a 2% pay uplift to cover their pay and expenses.   

The introduction of a multi-year contract for GPs meant the Doctors and Dentists Remuneration Review Body (DDRB) decided not to make recommendations on their pay this year.  

NHS Digital statistics showed that the ratio of expenses to earnings, which represents the proportion of gross earnings taken up by expenses, was 66.6% in 2017/18 – an 0.8% point increase since 2016/17.

The report said: ‘Since 2005/06, expenses have been increasing at a faster rate than income before tax for GPMS contractor GPs in the UK, resulting in an expenses to earnings ratio which has grown each year.’

‘Significant financial burden’

BMA GP Committee executive team member Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said the data highlights ‘the significant financial burden’ associated with the management of a practice.

He said: ‘The figures suggest that years of repeated, real-terms pay cuts for GPs are starting to be reversed.

‘However, while earnings may have gone up, the number of doctors continues to fall, with the NHS in England losing more than 800 partners alone over the same period. As patient demand rises and the workforce gets smaller, GPs are taking on more work – often in excess of their contracted hours. This places a huge amount of strain on GPs, who are putting their own health and wellbeing at risk to ensure their patients get the best care possible.

He added: ‘These statistics also highlight the significant financial burden that comes with running a practice, with the proportion of overall earnings going towards practice expenses reaching a record high.

‘With a recent BMA survey finding that half of practice buildings are not suitable to meet current needs, it’s no surprise to see that the cost of premises continues to be one of the biggest outgoings for partners, underlining why central investment is urgently needed to bring facilities up-to-date and ensure practice teams can deliver the best possible care for everyone.’

Last year, average earnings across all types of GP increased by nearly 3%, with GP partners seeing a 4% salary increase after expenses