Exclusive: GPs 'happiest in Europe' on pay

GPs in the UK are among the most worried in Europe about the future of their profession, despite being the happiest with their current method of pay.

A total of 399 GPs from the UK, France, Italy, Germany and Spain took part in a poll carried out by researchers Stethos for French general practice magazine Le Generaliste.

It found that, although GPs in the UK were divided over the use of financial incentives in return for health outcomes (GP, 12 October), they were the happiest in Europe with their current method of remuneration.

More than half (57 per cent) were satisfied with their current pay compared with 44 per cent in France, 29 per cent in Italy, 18 per cent in Spain and 12 per cent in Germany.

However, 87 per cent were concerned for the future of general practice, second only to the Spanish (90 per cent) and above Germany (84 per cent), Italy (83 per cent) and France (79 per cent).

GPC member and London GP Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the results demonstrated that doctors were driven by multiple factors, not just pay.

'This is what this government is in danger of forgetting. UK general practice used to have very similar levels of dissatisfaction with pay compared with Europe, but it was part of a larger morale problem and that was why the new contract was negotiated,' Dr Nagpaul said.

'Now GPs are happy with their pay but they are still feeling undermined by government policy that appears to devalue them, such as the obsession with bringing in private providers. It is creating insecurity and uncertainty amongst GPs over the future.'

This giving with one hand but taking away with the other was destabilising the solid foundation of general practice, he added.

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said recent media bashing of GPs was also taking its toll.

'There's also a sense that the government doesn't value general practice highly nor understand what it does and how it responds to need,' he said.

'There's a constant perception being put across that others can do this job just as well.'

However, Dr David Jenner, Devon GP and head of practice-based commissioning for the NHS Alliance, said, the survey was a reflection of human nature.

'UK GPs are quite happy. They are well paid, independent and rewarded for providing high quality,' he said. 'Conversely, that makes them more worried about change because if you come from a high starting point then things are more likely to go down.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said UK GPs should remember that they were in existence before the NHS and it was highly likely they would remain long after the current reforms had been replaced.

'When people are sick they will always want someone they know and trust to treat them. That's our biggest card,' he said.

What is your biggest worry for the future of general practice? Write to GPletters@haymarket.com.

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