Hewitt: GP pay rise too high

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Indy Politics

Family doctors have helped themselves to a larger pay rise than was intended by taking an extra £9,000 a head out of their practices, the Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has said.

Ten days after The Independent revealed GPs' average earnings had risen by 63 per cent in three years to £118,000 in 2005-06, Ms Hewitt criticised doctors for paying themselves a bigger slice of their practice income than in previous years. Calculations by The Independent show this amounted to £9,000 a head extra.

GPs are paid a gross sum by the NHS to run practices out of which they make a "profit", which they pay themselves as income. Figures from the NHS Information Centre show that in 2003-04, they paid themselves 40 per cent of their gross earnings but this rose to 45 per cent in 2004-05, when their new contract was introduced.

In an interview with the BBC website, Ms Hewitt said: "I think if we anticipated this business of GPs taking a higher share of income in profits we would have wanted to do something to try to ensure that the ratio of profits to the total income stayed the same and therefore more money was invested in even better services for patients."

Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA's GPs committee, said: "Patricia Hewitt should be proud of the achievements of general practice, not denigrating doctors for delivering top-quality care." A Health Department spokesman denied that Ms Hewitt had said GPs pay should be capped.

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