Family doctors earned their surgeries thousands of pounds in bonuses by performing "beyond expectation" last year, according to the first tables to assess quality of care.

The tables enable patients to check the performance of their GPs and assess their work in several areas. The average GP practice scored 91 per cent of the points available in an incentive scheme to improve their pay and raise standards for patients.

Under the new GP contracts, practices get a basic rate topped by bonus points in areas such as providing early flu injections for heart disease patients or ensuring flexible appointments. The contracts, which came into force last year, represent a revolution in primary care by paying GPs for results rather than for the number of patients they have.

The Department of Health yesterday released the first results from the scheme, called the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF). The department had estimated that the 8,486 practices in the scheme would score an average 730 points out of a possible 1,050, but they achieved 959, a £74,229 bonus for each surgery. That gave the average partner in a GP practice £100,000 a year.

In a rare display of unity, ministers and doctors agreed the new "payment by results" contracts, which took years to negotiate, had been successful and were improving quality as well as attracting more staff to primary care.

Lord Warner, the Health minister, said: "I congratulate GPs. The high scores show the new contract is proving successful in giving practices a real incentive to improve the quality of care for NHS patients and to provide a wide range of services locally."

Under the old system, GPs were paid by the number of patients they had rather than for their range and quality of care. With QOF, each incentive point is worth an extra £77.50 to the practice, the bonus scheme accounting for 20 per cent of their income. An extra 100 points can be awarded for surgeries which show high levels of patient satisfaction, and 184 points for electronic record-keeping.

Other bonus points focus on treatment for mental health, diabetes, heart disease and asthma.

The British Medical Association says there is still a shortage of thousands of GPs. Dr David Jenner, a lead negotiator on the contracts, said: "One of the biggest problems facing primary care has been the need to recruit and retain more GPs. They do care about their pay, but a lot were leaving the profession because they felt they could not offer the care they wanted to."