Top GPs earning over £300,000 a year

Britain’s highest paid GPs have broken through the £300,000-a-year barrier working for the National Health Service.

One of them, Suppiah Ratneswaren, 61, who is linked to four separate NHS practices in the south London borough of Greenwich, has admitted he is earning between £300,000 and £400,000 a year, 90% of it from the health service.

The respected GP spoke out after The Sunday Times obtained figures which revealed that one GP operating in the Greenwich area had earned £378,000 in a year solely by working for the NHS. Another earned £270,000 and six others have pocketed more than £190,000 in annual earnings.

The figures, disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act, relate to 2007 and 2008, the most recent year for which data are available.

Ratneswaren insisted that he was not the highest-paid doctor in Greenwich: “I don’t want to be seen as a money-hungry doctor because I am driven by the quality of work and I work very hard. I have got nothing to hide.”

Pressed about his yearly earnings, Ratneswaren said: “It’s closer to £300,000 than £400,000.” He said 90% of his earnings were from the NHS, while the rest was generated through private services such as treating the relatives of patients who might be in Britain on holiday.

He said his practices received about £90 per year for each patient signed to it and insisted that doctors should not feel guilty about their earnings.

He also earns performance-related pay that rewards him for meeting a series of administrative and clinical targets such as measuring cholesterol levels among patients at risk. He said the country was benefiting from performance-related pay, “because I will argue that we have improved the quality of services to the patients”.

He defended doctors’ right to high earnings: “Medical professionals always put themselves in a different context to lawyers and other professionals such as City boys, and that’s why I suppose there’s a difference in the pay and the way they are perceived in the community.”

A second GP in the trust area, Hany Wahba, 56, has also been named by colleagues as one of the country’s highest-paid doctors. Wahba, who heads a practice in Plumstead, one of London’s poorest areas, and sits on the local committee of the British Medical Association (BMA), said: “I am not in a position to discuss anything. I don’t want to be dragged into something I don’t want to say.”

The disclosure that GPs in one trust are earning so much will raise concerns about NHS contracts introduced in 2004. These allowed GPs to opt out of night and weekend work while fuelling a surge in their earnings.

About half of a practice’s current income is now a flat rate based on the number and needs of their patients, calculated on factors such as age, gender, levels of morbidity and mortality rates.

The average GP’s salary has risen from £70,000 to £104,000 in six years and 300 senior GPs in England and Wales now earn more than £250,000 a year.

Critics say the contracts work to the advantage of practices with large populations in urban areas such as south London. Ratneswaren has 13,000 patients across his four practices with 9,000 at one in Greenwich — almost 50% higher than the average for England.

At the same time the change has left many areas short of night-time cover. A report by the Patients Association, published yesterday, found that one in six patients in some trusts regarded out-of-hours provision in their area as poor or very poor.

Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, has defended the payments system: “This was a deliberate attempt by the government to ensure GPs’ pay was increased because it had lagged behind other professionals.”

NHS Greenwich said practices were private contractors that could pay their staff as they chose, adding that the highest-earning GP undertook a variety of work for the NHS.


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