The government has defended the money paid to GPs after it was reported that some are making up to GBP 250,000 a year.
The BBC says it has been told that GP wages have risen by up to 25 per cent since new contracts were introduced in 2004.
It claims that figures from the Association of Independent Specialist Medical Accountants suggest the average earnings of a GP now exceed GBP 100,000.
King’s Fund says patients astonished
But one accountancy firm in the north-east of England said it knew of nearly ten GPs who earned between GBP 200,000 and GBP 250,000 a year.
The head of health charity the King’s Fund, Niall Dickson, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘For the average person going to their GP, the very idea that their doctor might be earning between GBP 200,000 and GBP 250,000 would be really astonishing.
‘And by international standards that would put them way up at the top of the league even among developed countries.’
But Dr Hamish Meldrum, Chairman of the British Medical Association’s General Practitioners’ Committee, said ‘good rewards’ were needed to recruit doctors. He added that average earnings were ‘a bit below’ GBP 100,000 and that those at the top end were probably running a complex and high-powered business.
Health Secretary defends pay
Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said she would be ‘astonished’ if any GPs were earning as much as GBP 250,000 from the NHS.
But she told the BBC: ‘I am proud of the fact that we are paying GPs far more than ever before and we are doing it because we agreed with them a performance-related contract which means that far more of their income is now based on quality of care that they are giving their patients.’
Ms Hewitt said that under a new scheme being launched this month, GPs’ pay will be linked to patient satisfaction in a bid to cut down on the number of people unable to get the appointments they need.
She said:’This is a first and that will see a significant improvement in the service that patients are getting.’
The minister admitted that the NHS had overspent about GBP 300 million on GPs but added that the contracts had been tightened, and practices would have to do more to maintain their earnings.