A principal will cost a practice nearly £8,000 a year less than a salaried GP once extra non-clinical work is allowed for, according to accountants.
Specialist medical accountants Ramsay Brown and Partners say it would cost a practice £101,440 to pay a salaried GP to work the average number of clinical sessions a partner works, close to the average £106,072 income for a partner.
This is because although salaried GPs earn an average £55,790, data show they work 5.3 clinical sessions compared with 7.6 for partners, who carry out up to a session of additional work on administration. Practices must also pay national insurance and superannuation on top of salaried GPs' pay.
Laurence Slavin, a partner at the medical accountancy firm, calculates that partners perform their 7.6 clinical sessions for £93,738, less than the cost of a salaried GP for the same hours.
'This shows salaried GPs are not as hard done by as some people think,' he said.
Meanwhile, the pay gap between principals and salaried GPs in Wales is now less than £6,500, says GPC Wales.
A small rise for salaried GPs and an income drop for principals would make it more attractive to hire a partner, said GPC Wales chairman Dr David Bailey.
Once the cost of GPs' professional development is included, practices may realise that 'the actual cost of employing a salaried doctor is higher'. 'Practices must look at the bottom line,' Dr Bailey said.
Non-dispensing principals' income averages £88,933 in Wales. The real cost of employing a GP is close to £82,500.
The narrowing cost to practices comes as GPC Wales warns of continuing political threats to partnerships.
A Welsh Assembly government spokesperson said that an all-salaried GP service is still 'being considered'.