GPs' pay award double the limit on public sector

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The Independent Online
FAMILY doctors were yesterday awarded a 3.9 per cent increase in their gross income, more than double the limit on public sector pay rises, opening the Government to allegations that it was giving 'special treatment' to GPs.

GPs' pay has been pegged to the 1.5 per cent increase awarded to the rest of the public sector, raising their pay to pounds 40,610 from 1 April. The Department of Health denied an increase in fees, plus an 11 per cent increase in expenses for their practices, breached the pay limit. 'It is not the same as pay in the public sector.'

David Blunkett, Labour's health spokesman, last night called on Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, to review the 1.5 per cent limit on nurses' pay. Ministers are keen to preserve good relations with GPs - seen as crucial in winning support for the controversial changes to the National Health Service.

Practice expenses, fees and allowances will add pounds 22,190 to the average income for GPs, averaging pounds 62,303 - a gross increase of pounds 2,326. The rise takes account of evidence that GPs' expenses were substantially higher than forecast by the Doctors' and Dentists' Pay Review Body. Mrs Bottomley also agreed to review a request for a substantial increase for trainee GPs for 'out-of-hours' work.

But there was a sting in the tail. The GPs were overpaid pounds 3,552 each in 1990-91. Some has been waived, but Mrs Bottomley said pounds 497 would be clawed back in 1993-94, in spite of the objections by the GPs' negotiators, and the outstanding claim will be considered as part of the annual pay review in the autumn.

Mr Blunkett last night challenged Mrs Bottomley to give a firm commitment that the 20 million exemptions from prescription charges would not be cut as part of the Government's spending cuts. In a late-night debate to approve the decision to increase the charge by 50p to pounds 4.25 each from 1 April, Mr Blunkett condemned the move and called on Mrs Bottomley to extend the exemptions to cystic fibrosis sufferers.