Clarification on misleading claims made in BBC article on junior doctors industrial action

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Sunday 12 March 2023
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A BBC News online article published this morning (12.03.2023) contains a number of misleading claims about the BMA’s upcoming industrial action involving junior doctors in England:

  1. First and foremost, we are not “demanding the biggest pay rise”—we’re demanding that our members’ pay be restored to what it should be.
  2. The article states: “Firstly, no junior doctor has seen pay cut by 26%”. This deliberately conflates pay progression - increases to reflect increased skill and experience level - and cost of living increases, which is what pay awards are meant for.
    Since 2008, junior doctor pay in England has been cut in real-terms (RPI) by 26.1%. No doctor is worth less than they were 15 years ago.
  3. “The BMA defends its use of RPI” – and rightly so. It’s not just the BMA who use RPI; Government does also, to increase things like rail tickets doctors need or to work out their student loan interest rates. It is the best measure to reflect the living costs of our members and all working people in the UK.
  4. In reference to the 2008/2009 baseline the BMA uses for pay erosion, the article says that “a more recent start date will show a smaller decline, as would going further back in the 2000s”. We calculate pay erosion based on when the Government chose to start bypassing the pay review body and imposed pay freezes and caps.
  5. It’s also unfair to conflate basic pay in its infographic, with so-called ‘extras’ whilst neglecting to acknowledge such extras cover intensive hours worked at weekends and evenings.
  6. It states that “doctors remain amongst highest earners”. It’s unfair to compare junior doctors against the whole of the UK. Junior doctors spend years in training generating huge student loans and face high exam and professional fees. This is why they should be paid what they are worth in 2023.
    A junior doctor starting their job today would be paid just £14.09 per hour – less than someone working in a coffee shop. We’re asking this be increased to £19 per hour – where it should be had the Government not cut junior doctor pay in real-terms year-on-year.
    Despite Steve Barclay’s misleading claims, the cost of pay restoration is just £1bn or a quarter of what the Government spent on unusable PPE during the Covidpandemic.


Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

  1. Read the BMA's briefing note for media on the industrial action.​