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GPs make £100k a year. Half of them still want to quit.

Salaries for British GPs are 3x higher than the average UK wage.

GP numbers in the UK are falling. (GP stands for General Practitioner, and they’re also known as family doctors). Of those that are left, half of them plan to quit in the next five years, and two-thirds want to cut back their hours. That’s not great for Britons, whose need for primary healthcare is increasing as the population ages. So the government is keen to reverse the GP trend. How might it do this?

Perhaps the most commonly cited way of making a job more appealing is to increase how much it pays. After all, for most of us, the main reason to work is for money. Wages give us an income which we can then use for food and rent and strawberry daiquiris. The more income we have, the more stuff we can buy, which plenty of people associate with success and a higher quality of life.

But clearly this isn’t the whole story, because GPs are paid well. If they’re self-employed (which is the case for the majority of GPs) their average salary is over £100k. That’s over three times the national average (around £30k) and higher than GP salaries in any other Western country bar Germany.

There are a couple of ways to look at this phenomenon. The first is that clearly pay is not the only factor people consider when deciding to take or stay in a job. When surveyed, GPs complain about the long hours, high workload and mindless bureaucracy of their role. Fixing or minimising some of these negative aspects may keep more GPs in the role than upping their pay. The second thing is that high wages may sometimes translate into people working less, because they can still sustain a decent lifestyle on a proportion of their overall income.

Of course, few people would advocate slashing GP pay to make working full-time the only economical solution. (For a start, it would almost certainly increase turnover even more.) But it does go to show that high wages are not always the huge work incentive many employers and economists think they are.

Read our explainer on: what motivates us to work?

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