Editorial - Spreading misinformation

Question: why is The Da Vinci Code like a £250,000 GP? Answer: because both are largely fiction, with only a tenuous connection to reality.

Bad information sticks like superglue. It doesn't matter how often historians say that the Priory of Sion is a fantasy created by a French hoaxer, there will still be people who believe it exists. The same applies to the £250,000 'average GP'.

But there is worse to come. In the hullabaloo about high-earning GPs something important has been left out. Doctors have been falling over themselves to declare that, far from £250,000, the average GP earns just £110,000. Yet no one seems to have stated the obvious: if this is the average figure then half of us must earn less - in some cases considerably less. While the BMA has been up in arms about the damage the figure of £250,000 could cause, it is as if £110,000 has now become the actual salary of a GP. It isn't. It's the average.

The psychological harm that this will create is almost incalculable: government spin doctors will be rubbing their hands with glee. Consider the bargains that the DoH will be able to drive through, knowing that we are all so well-funded.

Think of the sense of moral certainty and outrage that cash-strapped primary care organisations (PCOs) will exude in the future whenever GPs ask for more funds for buildings or enhanced services.

As a result, practices which already receive below-average remuneration are likely to become even further disadvantaged. PCOs trying to cut back on enhanced service payments to wealthier practices will be reducing the remuneration of the less-well-off ones too. The DoH won't adjust the unfair square-root formula, even though this greatly reduces the earnings of high-morbidity practices.

The whole situation needs a thorough dose of realism, one that recognises that, while a few GPs are exceedingly well off and many earn £110,000 or more, a very large number of us work just as hard if not harder for a great deal less. But as with The Da Vinci Code, fantasy is more interesting than reality - so the truth will largely be ignored.

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