The government has suspended this year's clawback of £27m in GP overpayments in return for improved patient services and a review of the complicated GP payments system.

The decision followed a supplementary report by the doctors' and dentists' review body, which had recommended that GPs should receive a total of£23,790 in indirect expenses in the coming year, down from£24,510, and that fee overpayments should be clawed back.

But ministers intervened and decided to suspend the recovery.

The first review body report, in December, awarded GPs a 4.2 per cent pay rise. The extra money has been provided by the decision not to claw back£7m of overpayments of GP fees for the current year, together with£20m of flu vaccination payments that were also due to be recovered.

The overpayments are a feature of the current general medical services payments system for most GPs, in which payments are made for work nominally done and then recovered if an overpayment has been made. There is an average£2,864 cumulative overpayment owed by each GP, a total of around£80m.

The British Medical Association criticised the fees award but welcomed suspension of the clawback.