Leader: GPs might be well paid but they deserve to be

UK GPs are the second highest paid in the world. Good news you'd think, except the figures come from a leaked Treasury presentation which called for higher productivity and more control on spending from the NHS.

It is good news that, when various earnings surveys and data were adjusted for cost of living and other factors, UK GPs came second only to colleagues in the US. It means that on some level at least the work of GPs is being valued.

But the concern over efficiency and the apparent underlying assumption that the level of earnings might be too high reveals a failure to make other comparisons about value for money and the availability of resources.

GPs here earn more than GPs in European systems, but then some of those countries would appear to have surplus GPs to export to the UK, while we struggle to meet our needs. On a basic commodity level this is bound to make UK GPs more expensive.

Then there is the question of efficiency and value for money. The rise in GP earnings has paralleled two significant changes in the NHS.

The first is an effort to invest more in health delivery and the second is to shift much more of the delivery to primary care.

The inevitable result is that GPs are delivering more services than before and than their opposite numbers in other countries, and therefore it is not surprising that as independent contractors, more work equates to more income.

One is left wondering how much more efficient the Treasury would like the average practice to be. For example, GPs here see more patients than in Italy and France and have shorter consultations. In those consultations they now have to fit in Choose and Book and are measured on their performance against a range of quality targets.

Perhaps some earnings figures adjusted for patient throughput, referral levels and quality achievement would give the Treasury a clearer view of GP value for money.

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