NAO report 'overestimates' GP pay by 14 per cent

Figures released today by the National Audit Office (NAO) overestimate average GP earnings by as much as 14 per cent, say accountants.

The NAO says that the average GP practice partner in England now earns almost £114,000.

But Stuart Williamson, an accountant with Williamson West, says that this figure doesn’t take into account the employers’ 14 per cent contribution to GP pensions.

‘Twelve months ago this was reported and acknowledged,’ said Mr Williamson. ‘But it has repeated the exercise.’

The NAO report suggested that average GP profits have increased by nearly 60 per cent, from £72,000 in 2002/3 to £114,000 in 2005/6.

The new GMS contract cost the DoH £1.8 billion more than it had budgeted for between 2003/6, according to government auditors.

The NAO said that much of the England 9.4 per cent overspend occurred because the DoH underestimated the scores GPs would achieve on the quality framework. But the additional costs of out-of-hours care also played a part.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said he was unsurprised. ‘The BMA repeatedly told the government that GPs would exceed the targets they had set them,’ he said. ‘It was also well known that GPs had been subsidising out-of-hours care out of their own pockets, so the money taken away from them was never going to cover the costs of running the new service.’

But he welcomed the report's finding that the contract has improved recruitment to general practice. The total number of GPs has increased by around 15 per cent since its introduction in 2003.

Patients have also benefited, thanks to longer appointments with clinicians. The average consultation length has increased from 8 minutes in 2002/3 to 12 minutes in 2005/6.

But the NAO said that other expected benefits, such as redirecting income to under-doctored areas, had yet to materialize.

National Audit Office  

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