Alistair Burt, speaking exclusively to GPonline, acknowledged that rising practice expenses must be recognised.
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Official data released earlier this month revealed that GP income fell almost 3% in 2013/14. The fourth successive fall left average GP pay down 20% since 2004/5.
Expenses across the UK in 2013/14 accounted for 63.5% of gross earnings, up 1% from 2012/13, the Health and Social Care Information Centre data revealed.
Alistair Burt said he recognised that pay is important for GP morale. ‘I'm not surprised that doctors mention it,' he said. ‘It's very real and very human.
‘I can’t anticipate the pay review, and I can’t anticipate the contract. And of course pay is only part of the experience of working, in terms of the burdens, the other things that the practice may do.’
Mr Burt added: ‘I think there is evidence we are trying to arrest all this, so as I say, I recognise that pay is part of it. It is only part of it, but it is an important one.’
The government does, he said, ‘have to recognise the pressure of expenses’ as part of addressing the profession’s concerns. ‘Some of the expenses are very tough and outside a doctor's control,' he added.
GP leaders have called on ministers to ‘take action to stem the expenses pressure’ threatening to make practices unviable.
In March ministers awarded a 1.16% overall rise in GP contract payments for 2015/16, to deliver the Doctors and Dentists Review Body's (DDRB's) recommended 1% pay rise for GPs in line with the government public sector pay cap.
A formula previously used by the DDRB to assess expenses and income was abandoned by the body this year after it failed to deliver intended net pay rises. The DH applied the formula despite previously accepting it was 'not fit for purpose'.