TAXPAYERS, patients and thousands of hard-working GPs - many already demoralised by increasing workloads and a decade of disinvestment - can be rightly angry that money supposed to help tackle health problems in some of Scotland's poorest communities has been used instead to line the pockets of a few less scrupulous doctors.

The allegation that research demonstrating the problem has been "suppressed" by those in a position to act is even more infuriating.

Read more: Claim report on Glasgow GP incomes 'suppressed'

To be clear, Dr Irvine is certainly not accusing all Deep End GPs of misusing the funds. In fact, the Herald is aware of many Deep End GPs taking home modest sums who are both angry at the behaviour of a minority of their colleagues and frustrated by the reluctance of those in power to shine a light on it.

That must end. The research deserves to be published - or at least passed to Audit Scotland - and a similar analysis should be carried out Scotland-wide.

Of course, GPs earning unusually high sums are not unique to the Deep End, but it is uncomfortable that they should have been found in a higher concentration - consistently, over a decade - in practices paid extra to address the health inequalities associated with poverty.

Read more: Warning majority of GPs will pocket extra funding as salary

It is money that could have been spent hiring mental health workers, physiotherapists, extra practice nurses or additional GPs.

Instead, some appear to have shunned such expenses to ensure that their own earnings go up.

Some critics will say this problem is intractable as long as GPs run their practices as small businesses. They will say that GPs should be salaried NHS employees, like hospital consultants, not independent contractors.

However, the independent contractor model has huge advantages: it cuts down on red tape, and enables innovation that often benefits patient care.

Read more: GP leaders raise concerns that new contract will stifle 'profit motive'

Being independent also means GPs are free to speak out and criticise, something hospital whistleblowers - directly employed by the NHS - cannot.

What is really needed is transparency. If income and expenses data by practice was publicly available and open to scrutiny, the minority exploiting the system would be less inclined to do so - or at least exposed if they did.

But with the new contract also set to deliver a £23m no-strings-attached windfall in April to two thirds of GP practices (via a controversial formula that is pumping extra funds into the Central Belt while most rural GPs get no funding uplift whatsoever), taxpayers are entitled to know how that is spent.