England (Parliament Politic Magazine) – Junior doctors in England are embarking on their fifth round of strike action, as their bitter pay dispute with the government shows no signs of resolution. Earlier this year, the British Medical Association (BMA), the doctors’ union, made headlines by claiming that pay had fallen significantly behind inflation, to the extent that its members would be better off working as baristas rather than treating patients.
The government, however, dismissed this assertion as misleading, stating that the average junior doctor earns between £20 and £30 per hour. In reality, the term “junior doctor” encompasses individuals who have just graduated from medical school, as well as those with over a decade of experience.
Salaries Vary Greatly Among Junior Doctors
Furthermore, the issue of pay is complex, with salaries varying greatly as doctors progress through different grades and specialize in specific areas.
To shed light on this matter, BBC News approached two junior doctors at different stages of their careers, requesting them to share their wage slips and provide a detailed explanation of their earnings.
Dr. Robert Gittings completed his medical studies in Liverpool, specializing in infectious disease biology. After graduating, he embarked on his first year as a junior doctor, also known as FY1, in London.
Currently, he is gaining valuable experience in the infectious diseases ward as part of his rotation, which exposes him to various medical disciplines.
Within our hospital, we encounter a significant number of patients suffering from tuberculosis, uncontrolled HIV, pneumonia, and occasionally, tropical infections,” he explains.
Dr. Gittings receives a monthly pre-tax salary of approximately £2,450 for a standard 40-hour workweek, equating to just over £14 per hour. However, his average working week extends to 48 hours due to mandatory roster hours.
According to the government’s final offer, Dr. Gittings’ pay will increase in October through two means: a direct 6% raise and a permanent addition of £1,250 to annual salaries, both retroactive to April.
Nevertheless, this offer falls significantly short of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) request for a 35% increase to compensate for years of below-inflation raises.
For Dr. Gittings, the latest pay offer would result in an approximate monthly increase of £250 before tax.
Additionally, he receives supplementary payments each month, including an extra £1.04 per hour to account for the higher cost of living in London, £147 for night shifts (equivalent to around £5 per hour before tax in June), and a fixed £122 per month for working one weekend every five or six weeks.
Junior Doctors Salary Gets Reduced By Tax Cuts
Junior doctors, like Robert, typically invest five or six years of their lives in medical school before embarking on their professional journey. Robert, for instance, graduated with approximately £50,000 of debt, which encompassed tuition fees. In June, he managed to repay £75 of his student loans from his salary.
Apart from the student loan repayment, Robert also faces other deductions. For instance, £257, equivalent to 9.8% of his wages, is deducted for his pension. The National Health Service (NHS) contributes a substantial 20.6% under the latest career average scheme, surpassing the contributions made by most private sector pensions.
After accounting for taxes and deductions, Robert’s take-home pay in June amounted to £2,164. This translates to an annual salary of approximately £37,000.
Considering the current circumstances, Robert is contemplating taking a year off to work abroad, potentially in Australia. He expresses his lack of confidence in the potential improvement of pay in his current position. “I would strongly consider staying [in Australia],” he asserts.
Dr. Kiran Rahim graduated from medical school in 2011 and currently serves as a paediatric registrar, one of the most experienced positions for junior doctors. Reflecting on her recent workday, Dr. Rahim describes a bustling environment.
She was responsible for managing the paediatric referrals and attending to sick children in the A&E department. Additionally, she oversaw the acute stay ward, ensuring that the children received the necessary treatment and coordinating their scans.
Dr. Rahim took a three-year break to start a family, and now she works part-time while caring for her young children. Consequently, her training and time as a junior doctor have been extended. For her average three-day workweek, Dr. Rahim receives a monthly basic salary of approximately £3,315 before taxes, equivalent to just under £28 per hour.