The average GP's income before tax fell by 2.1% during 2006/07, according to figures published today (15 October 2008) by The NHS Information Centre (The NHS IC).
An analysis of tax returns for contractor GPs – the majority of GPs in the UK – found that their gross income increased by 1% to £247,362 during the year.
However, the rise was more than offset by the 3.5% increase in the cost of running their practice, with their expenses rising to £139,694 during the year.
As a result, average income before tax fell by 2.1% to £107,667, from £110,004 the previous year.
The report reflects earnings reported on tax returns, so includes private as well as NHS work, and covers both full and part-time contractor GPs.
The report shows the average pre-tax income of contractor GPs in 2006/07 varied in the different countries of the UK:
Contractor GPs working in practices that dispense prescriptions had an average pre-tax income of £126,996 (a decrease of 0.1% on 2005/06) while non-dispensing GPs had an average pre-tax income of £104,093 (a decrease of 2.4% on 2005/06).
The report showed a wide distribution of pre-tax income among contractor GPs.
At the lowest end of the scale, 6% of GPs earned less than £50,000, while at the highest end of the scale, 0.8% earned more than £250,000.
In response, the BMA said the figures were no surprise. "The 3% fall in earnings for GPs working under the new GP contract is the first of what we predict will be three successive years of falling income for GPs and their practices," said Dr Richard Vautrey, Deputy Chairman of the BMA's GP Committee.
"This, combined with rapidly rising practice expenses, including making sure staff get the pay rises they deserve, means practices are unable to plan for the future with confidence, in particular by investing in new services to better meet the needs of their patients."
Dr Vautrey added: "GPs are working harder and more intensively and many GPs feel they have been unfairly penalised in recent years for providing high-quality care to their patients. Successive freezes on practice resources risks returning to the days of low GP morale, which would undo one of the main reasons the new contract was agreed by government – to make general practice a more attractive career choice for young doctors."
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