Bonuses for doctors: How GPs are earning up to 380,000 a year... and 200 an hour for work they used to do for free

By Sophie Borland and Daniel Martin
Last updated at 8:02 AM on 04th August 2009

Family doctors are earning up to 380,000 a year, a Daily Mail investigation has revealed.

GPs take home 'jaw-dropping' sums thanks to bonuses and overtime payments.

They are being paid more than 200 an hour for evenings and weekends - work they did for free before the bungled introduction of a new contract in 2004. Six years ago GPs were paid around 70,000.

Now Freedom of Information requests by the Mail have uncovered the astonishing way their pay has risen, even though the average GP is working seven fewer hours a week.

The investigation found one GP earning 380,000 a year and a number pocketing more than 300,000.

In some cases the figures include cash GPs have to pay out for staff salaries and rents.

But in Norfolk, one GP takes home 310,000 even after these are subtracted.

The investigation also revealed for the first time that family doctors are being paid up to 204 an hour for working in the evenings and at weekends - something they were expected to do at no extra charge before the new contract moved the responsibility to primary care trusts.

The continuing bonanza, when thousands of their patients are losing their jobs or taking pay cuts, came in for heavy criticism last night.

Michael Summers, vice chairman of the Patients Association said: 'You begin to wonder how on earth GPs can earn that sum.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance

'Ludicrous': Matthew Elliott wants the pay and perks of every GP to be made public

'I would hope that these figures are the exception rather than the rule. 100,000 would seem fair considering the fact that GPs are saving lives.'

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'Some GPs are now earning jaw-dropping amounts of money despite a reduction in their requirement to do out-of-hours work.

'With many people struggling even to get appointments it is ludicrous that GP pay has soared. The pay and perks of every GP should be published to let taxpayers assess if we're getting good value.'

But the British Medical Association said: 'These figures don't tally with statistics based on GPs' tax returns.

'Primary care trusts have information based on the amount of income a practice receives but this is not what GPs earn, as clearly there are many expenses such as staff and rent to be paid.'

The Daily Mail used the Freedom of Information Act to ask primary care trusts for the family doctor with the largest earnings in their district.

Many did not respond, claiming that the information was confidential or held by a private company - but responses were received from 22.

The highest-paid of all was a GP in North East Essex PCT, who earned 380,394. The trust, covering 40 surgeries in the Colchester area, would not name the doctor or say whether the figure included outgoings.

A GP in Kirklees, which covers Huddersfield and Dewsbury, took home 321,794 and the highest-earning family doctor in the South London boroughs of Sutton and Merton earned 319,000.

The fact that only 22 of 152 PCTs replied leaves the distinct possibility that there may be GPs earning more than 380,000.

Many of the highest salaries are in rural areas, where doctors can earn more from locally-targeted extra payments.

Doctors have been accused of ignoring dementia patients who are not covered by the new points scheme

Targets: Doctors have been accused of ignoring dementia patients who are not covered by the new points scheme

GPs with their own pharmacies also increase their take-home pay.

Under the 2004 contract, doctors earn points for treating patients with certain conditions.

The points translate into bonuses on their final salary and account for around a third of their income.

Among the targets for points are monitoring asthma patients, testing and diagnosing diabetes, checking blood pressure and monitoring patients with coronary heart disease.

Critics say it is too easy for GPs to gain maximum points and accuse them of ignoring patients like dementia victims who are not covered by the scheme.

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