Family doctors are earning more but doing less as a result of a new contract which cost the NHS £1.8bn more than expected, according to a report prepared by MPs.
The pay of GP partners, who run practices, rose by 58 per cent to an average of £113,614 in three years from 2003, compared with the 15 per cent that had been expected.
But productivity has declined, access has not improved and there has been no measurable increase in services for deprived areas. General practitioners have also dispensed with responsibility for out-of-hours care.
The Commons Public Accounts Committee published the report. Its Tory chairman, Edward Leigh, said that the contract, introduced in 2004, had "failed to live up to expectations". There had been some progress in linking pay to performance, but it had been "too easy" for GPs to achieve high scores, triggering higher payments.
"The new contract has not led to general practices being opened longer or at more convenient times for patients and has failed to improve services for deprived areas. Recent improvements in opening hours have been paid for out of additional money.
"The new contracts enable primary care trusts to negotiate with GPs the provision of enhanced services to meet the needs of the local population. So far, very few have done so. Partners in GP practices are now putting in less time and their productivity has decreased. Only their pay is burgeoning, having increased on average by an eye-watering 58 per cent since 2003."
The Liberal Democrats' health spokesman, Norman Lamb, said the Government's handling of the contract had been "staggeringly incompetent".
Average pay of GP partners. Source: commons public accounts committee.