Letter: Untangling median GP pay from the average

Dear Editor 

Dr Chris Lancelot himself spreads misinformation (GP, 2 June 2006) by getting his statistical knickers in a twist over means (average) and medians.

It is the median (the middle man of a sequence of numbers) and not the mean which defines the point where the distribution of data points is evenly spread.

The median is the statistic which should be applied to any asymmetrical distribution, such as GP earnings, to derive a useful summary measure.

An average calculated from an asymmetrical distribution is of lesser value. For instance, the sequence £150k, £130k, £120k, £120k and £30k yields an average of £110k, yet 80 per cent of contributors lie above it.

Chris's underlying theme that many GPs earn less than the average is likely to be correct. There are more routes to low earnings than to high, but he should not marshal flawed statistics to his cause. Perhaps this is why 'no one seems to have stated the obvious'.

Dr Fraser Hadden Locum GP, Ipswich.

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