Blunder on GPs' pay cost £1.76bn

The contract that boosted the pay of 33,000 family doctors by 58 per cent has cost the taxpayer £1.76bn more than expected.

In a damning report released today, the National Audit Office, blamed ministers for the blunder, saying they failed to run proper pilots which could have predicted how much extra the GPs would earn.

Funding for the new contract was increased in 2003 when GPs in England were given the option of taking more time off while meeting higher targets for care. Their pre-tax pay then soared from £72,011 to £113,614 in 2005-06 as many hit their targets. Ministers are now trying to persuade the GPs to work more weekends and evenings.

Dr Laurence Buckman, chairman of the BMA's GP Committee, said: "The overspend on the contract is not the fault of GPs – the BMA repeatedly told the Government that GPs would exceed the targets."

Edward Leigh, the Tory chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, which oversees the NAO reports, said: "GP partners are the real winners. They are being paid far more, are working less hours and their overall productivity has dropped. The department failed to cap how much of the additional funding GP partners could award themselves."