GP pay rose slower than inflation in 2017/18, official data show

Average UK GP pay rose by 2.5% in 2017/18 compared with the previous financial year, official data reveal - slightly below the CPI rate of inflation.

GP income rise (Photo: jax10289/Getty Images)
GP income rise (Photo: jax10289/Getty Images)

Average pay across partners and salaried GPs in the UK was £94,800, up from £92,500 in 2016/17 - a 2.5% increase described as 'statistically significant' in NHS Digital's latest report on GP earnings and expenses.

But the average CPI rate of inflation for 2017/18 was 2.8% - suggesting that the rise in GP income barely kept pace with rises in the cost of living across the UK.

Expenses, meanwhile, have continued to rise faster than income - with the earnings to expenses ratio for UK GP partners now at a staggering 66.6% - up 0.8 percentage points from the 2016/17 figure.

GP partner income

For GP partners, the increase in pay was markedly higher than the average across all GPs in 2017/18, with partners across GMS and PMS contracts seeing a 3.5% increase in income before tax to £109,100. Median income before tax for partners was £103,400 - up 3.1% compared with 2016/17.

The faster rise in partner income is likely to be attributable in part to the ongoing decline in numbers of GP partners. In England, the number of GP partners has slumped by well over 10% between 2015 and 2019 - the BMA said last year this meant that available funding was spread across a declining group of increasingly stretched doctors.

Among salaried GPs, average UK income before tax rose to £58,400 in 2017/18 from £56,800 - a 2.9% increase. The median figure was £54,100, a 2.5% rise compared with the previous financial year.

Across the four UK nations, GP pay rose fastest in Wales in 2017/18, climbing 2.7% to an average of £91,800 across partners and salaried GPs.

Regional variation

Average pay rose 2.5% in England to £96,000 - and England remains the nation with the highest average income before tax across all types of GP. In Scotland, pay rose 2.3% in 2017/18 to £89,300, while in Northern Ireland average pay rose 1.3% to £88,000.

BMA GP committee executive team member Dr Krishna Kasaraneni said: 'Today’s figures suggest that years of repeated, real-terms pay cuts for GPs are starting to be reversed.

'However, while earnings may have gone up, the number of doctors continues to fall, with the NHS in England losing more than 800 partners alone over the same period. As patient demand rises and the workforce gets smaller, GPs are taking on more work – often in excess of their contracted hours. This places a huge amount of strain on GPs, who are putting their own health and wellbeing at risk to ensure their patients get the best care possible.

'These statistics also highlight the significant financial burden that comes with running a practice, with the proportion of overall earnings going towards practice expenses reaching a record high.'

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