FAMILY doctors should be subject to a salary cap, according to a group of GPs working in some of Scotland’s most deprived communities.

They have called for “an open debate between the profession and the Scottish Government as to what might constitute a reasonable maximum income”.

Letters: 'There should be an open debate on a reasonable maximum income'

It comes after The Herald revealed that an analysis of pensionable income among GPs in Greater Glasgow and Clyde found that a minority of Deep End GPs have been using funding intended to tackle health problems in poor areas to top up their salary instead.

In one case, an unnamed Deep End GP had pre-tax earnings in excess of £300,000 a year - three times the average for a full-time GP partner in Scotland.

However, Dr Helene Irvine, the public health consultant behind the research, said she was also concerned to find the widest gulf in income per partner among Deep End GPs, with some earning “very modest sums” because they invested heavily in their practices instead.

In a letter to The Herald, nine Deep End GPs from Glasgow and Edinburgh said they would “welcome the publication of these findings”.

They also backed calls for GP practices to publish accounts showing how money is spent.

They write: “We would support greater transparency around the allocation and utilisation of resource, including transparency of GP incomes and we agree with the recommendation from Reform Scotland that GP accounts should be published.

“We welcome the new contract guarantee of a minimum income for all GPs and we propose there should be an open debate between the profession and the Scottish Government as to what might constitute a reasonable maximum income.”

Read more: Health chiefs 'suppressed' report on GP incomes in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

The new Scottish GP contract guarantees GP partners a minimum income of £80,430.

However, there are fears its new funding formula will exacerbate inequality across the profession by handing extra cash to GP partners predominantly based in affluent urban areas with high numbers of elderly patients, while the vast majority in rural areas get no uplift and many Deep End practices are set for very little - if any - extra cash.

Dr Alan McDevitt, chair of BMA Scotland’s GP Committee, said the new contract “addresses the relative underfunding of practice workloads associated with elderly and deprived populations” and that no GP surgery would lose money.

Read more: Warning 'majority' of GPs will pocket £10k contract windfall as salary boost 

He said the new contract would also tackle income variation during Phase Two, by shifting to consultant-style pay scales. However, there is no guarantee that GPs will vote for Phase Two in 2021.

Dr McDevitt said: “The new GP contract will for the first time see information collated on GP earnings and expenses from across Scotland. This will inform negotiations on phase two of the contract and the variation in GP income will be a part of these discussions, with the intention of reaching agreement to move to an income scale that is comparable to consultants.

“Doing this will allow the running expenses of practices to be separated from individual incomes and directly reimbursed.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said the new contract would improve transparency “by mandating that GP practices deliver comprehensive data on practice workforce, activity, income and expenses”.

Such data is unlikely to be made public, however.