Junior doctors can ‘make more serving coffee than saving patients’, BMA warns ahead of three-day strike

by BMA media team

BMA press release

Location: England
Published: Sunday 12 March 2023

‘Make more serving coffee than saving patients’: That is the message the Government is sending junior doctors by refusing to value them properly and address more than decade of real-terms pay cuts that mean newly-qualified medics earn just £14.09 an hour.

This is in comparison to baristas at Pret a Manger, who can earn up to £14.10 an hour, after the coffee chain recently announced it has raised wages by 19% this year.

Junior doctors in England will begin three days of strike action tomorrow over the more than 26% real-terms cuts to their pay since 2008/09. Ninety-eight per cent of junior doctors who took part in the BMA’s recent ballot voted for strike action, giving the union an unprecedented mandate for walk-outs, which also begin as membership hits a record high of 182,000.

An advertising campaign launched today by the trade union says:

“Pret a Manger has announced it will pay up to £14.10 per hour. A junior doctor makes just £14.09. Thanks to this Government you can make more serving coffee than saving patients. This week junior doctors will take strike action so they are paid what they are worth.”

Dr Becky Bates, a foundation year one junior doctor in the East Midlands, said:

"I thought by being a doctor I would be able to achieve financial independence, but instead I am still finding myself completely dependent on others.

"Between credit cards, overdrafts, and personal loans to cover my fees as a graduate taking on medicine as a second degree, I left medical school with over £15,000 ‘real’ debt, without even including the more than £100,000 I had in student loan debt. The reality of that burden is my wages are not even enough to allow me to fix my car when something goes wrong. I’ve spent months only driving in daytime because my headlights weren’t working properly, until the shorter days in winter meant I had no other choice – so I took on extra shifts. When something then went wrong with my power-steering I had no choice but to ask for help.

"I come from a single-parent family. I don’t come from money, yet at 28 I am relying on my amazing mum to take out credit card debt to meet these expenses. It’s humiliating for me and it’s not fair on her.

"Looking ahead myself and my colleagues will need to pay for our postgraduate exams in order to progress our careers – these can cost more than £500 a time. We will have to move to a different hospital in a different city as part of our training. Even with some moving expenses covered, these payments can take months to arrive, and I just wouldn’t have the buffer needed for an additional deposit or any rent overlap. Thankfully my mum lives closer to my new hospital than my current one, so I have that option, but this comes with a commute that is worrying with an unreliable car, and is only because I was lucky enough to get allocated a training job near home. The way the system works means that isn’t the case for many doctors and many end up having to move across the country to take up their posts, not to mention some colleagues have come from overseas or who are care leavers with no safety net whatsoever.

"As a junior doctor, I can be responsible for more than 400 patients overnight – assessing them, prescribing medication, having difficult conversations with families about end-of-life care, and I can be the first port of call should something go terribly wrong. Yet our skills and responsibilities are being completely devalued.

"My situation is far from unique, and this is why I, and the overwhelmingly majority of my colleagues, have been forced to take to the picket line this week. This is the only option we have left to get the Government to listen to us."

Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs, said:

“Is £14.09 an hour really all junior doctors are worth? These are people who can be providing life-saving care, having trained intensively at medical school, and racking up around £100,000 worth of debt in the process.

“We are fully supportive of any worker getting an inflation matching pay rise, and it is worth thinking on the fact that the Government has cut junior doctors pay by so much that they could earn more serving coffee.

“Is it any surprise that junior doctors are looking for jobs abroad or in other fields when the Government is telling them they are worth more than a quarter less than they were in 2008? Losing such valuable clinicians to other countries and professions when waiting lists are at record highs means patients will suffer even more than they are already.

“This is why doctors are going on strike. We are fighting to restore our pay. We are fighting to restore our value. We are fighting to restore our workforce to make the NHS an effective healthcare system again.”


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. Newspaper ad here.
  2. Junior doctors current hourly basic pay for delivering essential weekday care can be as low as £14.09 at the start of their career, rising to just £28.00 per hour after a minimum of 7 years of training. This is based on the English junior doctor pay scale and spreading the annual basic salary of each of the pay points over the workable full-time hours during a year, based on a 40 hour full-time week. The precise formula is: basic hourly rate = (annual basic salary/full-time weekly hours (40)/calendar days in a year (365)*days in a calendar week (7). For example, the full-time basic salary for an FY1 (NP1) in 22/23 is £29,384. £29,384/40/365*7 = £14.09.   
  3. For a full list of locations where pickets are taking place this week, please visit: https://strikemap.org/
  4. Read our junior doctors industrial action briefing note here.