NHS pays Hove GP more than £1m in three years

Posted On 06 Sep 2010 at 11:19 pm

A Hove family doctor has earned more than a million pounds from the NHS in the past three years.

The revelation follows a report in The Mail on Sunday as the newspaper published responses to a request made under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act.

The report can be read here.

The local GP is believed to be Dr Nigel Higson, who runs two surgeries in Hove – Goodwood Court Medical Centre in Cromwell Road and the Eaton Centre in nearby Eaton Gardens.

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He is widely regarded as one of the hardest working doctors in the area with high patient satisfaction ratings.

Brighton and Hove’s best-paid GP’s earnings for the 2008-09 tax year were reported to be among the top ten in Britain, according to the survey.

But they were down compared with the two previous years.

He made £308,368 in 2008-09. This compared with £369,323 in 2007-08 and £366,640 in 2006-07 – in total more than £1 million from the NHS over three years.

Dr Higson’s practice is paid on the same basis as every other practice in Brighton and Hove and is believed to be among the most cost-efficient.

On one calculation, compared with the average practice, it saves taxpayers nearly £3 million a year on prescriptions and referring patients for treatment in hospital, by specialists or for community care.

Using the same calculation it saves the NHS £6 million a year compared with the least efficient practice in Brighton and Hove, according to figures collated by the local primary care trust.

One GP also pointed out that Brighton and Hove’s highest-earning doctor had not received any money that would otherwise have been available for patient care in other ways.

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Teaching Primary Care Trust (PCT) – also known as NHS Brighton and Hove – said: “The level of income earned by GPs is determined by a national contract and is dependent on a number of issues, including the number of patients registered and how many additional services are provided for the benefit of patients such as enhanced diabetes and mental health care.”

The Mail on Sunday received replies from just under half of all primary care trusts. NHS Brighton and Hove was one of the 71 PCTs out of 152 to reply.

In reply to the newspaper the PCT said that no other family doctors in Brighton and Hove earned more than £200,000.

The newspaper quoted the British Medical Association, which represents doctors, saying that large pay packets were a proper reward for GPs who had achieved entrepreneurial success while maintaining patient care.

According to the report, Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the BMA’s GP committee, said: “We are talking about a very small number of high earners.

“The figures relate to a minority of GPs who have become entrepreneurs and businessmen and often run several practices.”

The Conservative and Lib Dem Coalition has frozen doctors’ pay.

Many general practitioners’ salaries have soared since a new GP contract was agreed with the previous Labour Government in 2004.

The 2004 contract is also blamed for ending the requirement that GP surgeries provide out-of-hours cover at nights and weekends. Instead, they can ask private companies to provide doctors on call.

The Coalition Government has said that it would tear up the 2004 contract.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has also promised that in future family doctors’ earnings will be more closely linked to the services that they provide for patients and the cost of those services.

Critics believe that the Coalition will extend the changes brought in by the 2004 contract and allow even more businesses to run GP surgeries.

They say that this will merely enrich businessmen rather than doctors instead of tackling the disproportionately high rewards being paid at present.

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