Viewpoint: Dr Kailash Chand: GP pay award will deepen recruitment crisis

The 1.16% increase in overall GP funding announced by the government for 2015/16, in real terms, is a cut in primary care funding.

Dr Chand: 'GPs are working harder to maintain their income.' Pic: Michele Jones
Dr Chand: 'GPs are working harder to maintain their income.' Pic: Michele Jones

Given the ever increasing patient demand in primary care, this pay award will not enable GP surgeries to increase their capacity to meet this demand. And will further deepen the recruitment and retention crisis.

Expenses for GMS/PMS practices have risen in relation to practices’ gross earnings every year since 2005/6, where as income for all GPs – partners and salaried GPs – fell by a ‘statistically significant’ average of over 20%.The figures confirm the sharp continuing decline in GP income since the new contract. That is the reason, why, there is a mass exodus of GPs abroad and to early retirement. GPs are already demoralised by ever increasing and unmanageable workloads. This further ‘real terms’ pay cut for GPs while running costs increase will make general practice unsustainable and means quality of patient care will be hit too.

The big thing getting missed in all of this is GPs are working harder to maintain their income. If GPs hadn’t been working harder, income would have fallen even further. GPs I meet are telling me they have got rid of locums and salaried doctors and partners are doing extra sessions themselves – working much much harder.

PMS practices are under added pressure because changes to their contracts mean in some areas, some of their profits are dependent on hitting targets. A lot of wages were kept down in past years. A lot of doctors didn’t increase staff pay, but they’ve had to now.

Add to this, GPs are losing seniority pay, they’re losing MPIG, and merely receiving a 1.16% rise. It’s not a sum that adds up . It appears successive governments (under pressure from media and politicians) have set out to do, and that is to reign in GP pay to pre-contract levels.

Politicians need looking at the statistics, over 40% of GPs are 50+, 30% are 55+ .More than 50% of practice nurses are over 50.The taxpayer pays over £350,000 to train a GP. There are more female GPs working part time than male GPs. The workforce is dwindling by the day. This year’s pay award like many for last the 10 years, goes no way towards fixing the wider issues facing GPs such as how they cope with rising patient demand, recruitment and retention crisis and inadequate premises. If we are to make general practice a popular choice for young doctors then improving the morale of the whole workforce is important and treating GPs fairly with respect to pay uplifts is an essential component.

  • Dr Chand is BMA deputy chairman but is writing in a personal capacity.

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