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Why our docs earn less; Shock figures spark call for fairer pay-outs.

SCOTLAND'S doctors are bottom of the pay heap, earning up to pounds 14,000 a year less than colleagues in the rest of the UK.

New statistics revealed that they work the same hours as GPs across Britain but are penalised by the way the NHS funds doctors.

Now Scots doctors are demanding a new system. GPs here can expect an average income of pounds 72,993 a year, compared with pounds 86,464 in England.

Doctors in Wales have an average income of pounds 80,990 and GPs in Northern Ireland get pounds 79,914.

Dr Kenneth Harden, chairman of the GPs' committee of the British Medical Association in Scotland, said yesterday: "The differences are just staggering.

"There is no reason why we should receive less than doctors anywhere else. We do the same amount of work and put in the same hours."

Scotland's GPs are funded by local health boards and the Government, and a third of their payment depends on the number of patients they have on their list.

Scotland has some of the lowest list sizes in Europe. But, because of the health toll of social deprivation and poverty, their overall workload is just as high.

Dr Harden said: "Glasgow has one of the lowest average patient list sizes in Europe but there is more illness and more deprived areas where people demand more care.

"Even doctors in extreme rural areas like the Shetlands do more work because they often have to travel long distances to patients.

"Having fewer patients does not mean Scottish doctors do less work.

"Every appointment slot in every surgery is filled every day and GPs still do home visits and immense amounts of paperwork."

He added that the current pay structure encouraged greedy doctors to put more and more patients on their lists.

He said: "It gives doctors the incentive to take on as many patients as they can. But bigger patient lists means minimal care."

A third of NHS funding is based on the number of patients, a third from the number of doctors per practice and the rest from the amount of childhood immunisations and cervical smear tests given.

The Scots doctors want a pay structure more heavily weighted towards the number of doctors.

The latest figures, from the Association of Independent Special Medical Accountants, were released just weeks after another study claimed Scottish doctors earned pounds 10,000 less than English GPs.

Many Scots doctors are taking on outside work to top up their wages. After paying staff and overheads, most take home around pounds 54,000.

The AISMA survey claims Scots doctors make an average pounds 18,052 through outside work. English doctors make around pounds 16,050 and the Welsh GPs pounds 14,000.

Scottish doctors also earn the least from health promotion projects and contraception payments.

Dr Harden said: "Every time a doctor writes a prescription for contraception, he is entitled to an NHS payment but it leads to a lot of administration. Many GPs don't have time to do this."
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 14, 2000
Words:506
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