Primary care salaries need to be addressed to improve health care

Physician salaries are always a sensitive topic.

A common view among health reforms is that doctors, in general, are paid too much. Various progressive pundits point to statistics showing that American doctors are the highest paid in the world.

For many specialists, that may be true. But not for primary care.

A recent Tweet by Ves Dimov pointed me to an article from the UK, stating that primary care doctors working in the National Health System are the highest paid in the world — an average of 106,000 pounds, or about $160,000.

It’s well known that the UK’s health system is based on a strong primary care foundation, leading the country to do well on a variety of health measures.

With an upcoming mandate in the UK that primary care doctors expand their hours, their pay is set to go even higher:

Family doctors in Britain are already the most highly-paid in the world, taking home an average of £106,000 a year – up more than 40 per cent since a lucrative contract signed in 2003.

But they pay looks set to rocket even further, because Health Secretary Andrew Lansley wants to hand them extra power to commission services for their patients, effectively putting them in control of Health Service spending.

Progressive commentators like to point how the American health system does poorly when compared to countries abroad. And yes, the numbers don’t lie.

But to improve our standing, it will take a fundamental transformation of primary care in the United States. And, as the UK has shown, that takes a strong financial commitment to primary care salaries that most reformers don’t advocate vocally enough.

 is an internal medicine physician and on the Board of Contributors at USA Today.  He is founder and editor of, also on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

View 13 Comments >

Most Popular

✓ Join 150,000+ subscribers
✓ Get KevinMD's most popular stories