Accountants blamed for errors in GP pay estimate

GP leaders have rejected accusations that they should have spotted flaws in GP earnings data published this month, blaming accountants for inconsistent approaches to tax returns.

GPC negotiator Dr Richard Vautrey
Figures published by the Information Centre for Health and Social Care, an NHS agency set up to replace the DoH statistics unit, showed GPs earned more than £106,000 on average in 2004/5.

The data were signed off by a technical steering committee comprising GPC, NHS Employers, DoH and Information Centre officials.

But after concerns were raised by GP, the Information Centre admitted the figures are flawed because they may include employers’ superannuation contributions paid by practices towards GPs’ pensions.

This was not included in GP pay data in previous years, so the 2004/5 figures are not comparable unless this can be separated out.

GPC negotiator Dr Richard Vautrey refused to reveal what steps had been taken to check the earnings data before they were published. He said technical steering committee processes were ‘confidential’.

‘Questions about superannuation were raised during the process of agreeing the figures, and assurances were given,’ he said.

‘But it’s clear that even with HM Revenue and Customs advice, different accountants are doing different things.’

Errors arose because NHS pensions include a 14 per cent contribution from the employer, and 6 per cent from employees.

Prior to the new contract, health authorities paid the 14 per cent directly, but now the funding is included in practice income.

Since 2004/5, GPs have been obliged to include both the 14 per cent employers’ contribution and the 6 per cent personal contribution on tax returns as a personal pension contribution.

But because rules changed part way through the year, not all accountants completed forms in the same way.

The Information Centre has pledged to investigate the extent to which superannuation has distorted the 2004/5 pay data, and to revise the figures accordingly.

Dr Vautrey said: ‘At the time the figures were issued it was done on the understanding of all parties that they were correct.’

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