Public say doctors deserve more as BMA launches pay campaign for ‘Fairness for the Frontline’

Press release from the BMA

Location: England
Published: Monday 22 March 2021

More than 60% of the public believes the country's doctors should get a pay rise in recognition of the risks they have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, with nearly three-quarters believing such a rise should be 3% or more.1

The results underpin the campaign launched in England today by the BMA – ‘Fairness for the Frontline' – demanding a fair pay rise for tens of thousands of the most highly skilled hospital doctors.

With the Government suggesting that all NHS workers, including doctors, should receive only a 1% uplift, the BMA commissioned survey shows that 62% of the public think doctors should get a pay rise with nearly three-quarters (72%) of those supporting a pay rise of 3% or more.

Hospital consultants, like all NHS staff, have been instrumental in the fight against Covid-19, showing incredible innovation, skill, and courage in meeting the intense demands of the pandemic, putting their own lives at risk. This has led to many becoming ill, some seriously ill, with Covid-19, and, as previous BMA research has shown, 40% have been left with feelings of anxiety, stress and burn out, as a result2. Over a third of hospital consultants report that they or their colleagues have had to take time off work due to the anxiety and emotional distress caused by the pandemic.

For many doctors at consultant level, the pandemic has tested them to their limits. They have treated the very sickest patients, day after day, facing very difficult decisions. They’ve supported more junior staff, started and run new services and refreshed skills many will not have used for years so as to guide the NHS through its greatest ever challenge.

Dr Rob Harwood, the chair of the BMA Consultants Committee said: “Over the past year, when the majority of the public did their duty by staying at home, doctors, nurses and other NHS staff made their way to work, every day coming face-to-face with a deadly virus that they saw tearing through wards and care homes, taking the lives of patients in its wake – the patients they were doing their utmost to save.

“The level of clinical expertise, innovation, and leadership that consultants bring to the NHS must not be underestimated - and currently it is both underestimated and undervalued. During the pandemic we have brought a wealth of expertise to the care of the most critically ill and given the age of many consultants, we have also faced an increase risk from Covid-19 in giving that care.

“With the NHS facing the largest backlog of care in its history, and the demands of Covid still very much a daily reality, the pressures on consultants have not gone away and are not going to go away for the foreseeable future - it is only right that NHS staff, including highly experienced doctors, are rewarded for their efforts with fair pay.

“For the Government therefore to suggest a 1% pay rise, after years of underpay and given consultants’ extraordinary efforts throughout this pandemic, it is nothing more than insulting. We believe that 5% is a fair pay rise for hospital consultants, ministers need to listen to the voices of doctors and the public and show them just how much they are valued by rewarding consultants with the fair pay that they most definitely deserve.”

Over the past 10 years hospital consultants have seen their real term pay diminished by successive below inflationary pay “rises” from the Government. Consultants have been hit more than any other group of healthcare workers and far more than the UK workforce as a whole. In 2008/09, the estimated value of take-home pay for the average consultant in England was £67,752. Taking inflation (RPI) into account, that figure was just £48,356 in 2019/20. That is a real decline in value of 28.6%.


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. BritainThinks surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,102 members of the UK public aged 18+ online on the 24th and 25th February 2021:

The Chancellor has announced a partial public sector pay freeze in England. However, this will not apply to NHS doctors who will still receive a pay rise in 2021. A decision on the exact increase amount will be taken in early summer 2021. Which of the following best describes your view on how, if at all, doctors’ salaries should change?
Doctors should get a pay increase: 62%
Doctors should not get a pay increase: 19%
Don’t know: 18%

You said you think that doctors should get a pay rise. If you were to put a figure on this pay increase do you believe it should be:
(Base: All respondents who think doctors should get a pay increase – n= 1,310)
Below 1%: 1%
1-2%: 13%
3-5%: 35%
6-10%: 23%
11-15%: 6%
16% or more: 8%
Don’t know: 16%

2. During this pandemic, do you consider that you are currently suffering from any depression, anxiety, stress, burnout, emotional distress or other mental health condition relating to or made worse by your work or study?
Yes – and worse than before the start of the pandemic: 39.8%
Yes – but no worse than before the state of the pandemic: 9.7%
No: 44.7%
Don’t know: 4.5%
Prefer not to say: 1.4%
(2,387 members answered this question in the February BMA tracker survey).

3. Find more information about the BMA's Fairness for the Frontline here.