Damning survey results reveal scale of junior doctors’ hardship

The shocking figures strengthen the case for pay restoration and explain why strikes could be the only option left.

Location: England
Published: Thursday 29 December 2022
BMA Junior doctor pay protester with placard July 2022

Between 21 November and 4 December 2022, we carried out a major survey to get a true picture of what life is like in 2022 as a junior doctor. More than 4,500 doctors responded on everything from the cost of living crisis and the burden of student debt, to their future career plans and their ability to take time off.  

We are also conducting a second survey that will look at wellbeing, culture and workload - if you’re a junior doctor, please take part and make sure your experience is recorded before it closes on 2 January. Hearing directly from junior doctors about the pressures they are under is critical as we continue campaigning together for full pay restoration. 



Here’s a snapshot of how junior doctors are coping with their real terms pay cut of 26.1% as the costs of food, energy and rent soar.  

We asked:


That’s an astonishing 98.9% of junior doctors who are worried about the cost of living. These are the same doctors who saw us through a pandemic and are now giving everything they’ve got to tackle huge backlogs and record waiting times.



We now have a situation where nearly half of junior doctors are struggling with basic costs like rent, heating and commuting. In 21st century England, this is a disgrace. 

This is my first year working in the NHS as a qualified doctor and I could never have anticipated spending it so skint. I graduated from medical school with two overdrafts and three credit cards and I just don’t see how I will be able to climb out of this hole any time soon. I had to take on an additional shift just to be able to afford to fix the headlights on my car. When I couldn't afford to eat in August, I had to borrow a credit card from a family member...
Dr Becky Bates, a junior doctor in the East Midlands, whose base rate of pay is £14.09 an hour


Junior doctors are highly skilled and highly qualified professionals. Yet a disturbing 50% have had to borrow money from friends or family in the last year, and 81% have had to use less heating. Next year, even more doctors expect to have to make sacrifices like this and get into more debt just to pay their bills. 



More than 80% of junior doctors told us they wouldn’t be able to meet their essential outgoings if they had to reduce their income at all. This tells us everything we need to know – junior doctors are scraping by. It is a stain on the Government that thousands of doctors, responsible for the health and wellbeing of the public, can barely make ends meet.  



So that’s 71% of junior doctors working above and beyond their contracted hours in their main job in an attempt to keep up with horrendous price rises. Many are working as locums in the NHS (helping to bring down huge waiting lists), some are taking on extra shifts in spite of feeling burnt out, and some are even taking on second jobs. We should be ashamed that this is what junior doctors feel they have to do to get by. And there is no end in sight. Next year, even more doctors expect to be taking on second jobs. 


Constantly worrying about how to pay our bills is leading many junior doctors to question their future in the NHS... Junior doctors put their lives on the line to care for patients during the pandemic but this contribution has been ignored and morale is plummeting fast as many face hardship at home and a raw deal at work.
Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs

Losing talent to overseas 

With junior doctors losing sleep over unpaid bills and being forced to take on second jobs, it’s little wonder that many of them are also rethinking their future in the NHS.  




We asked:


When nearly 80% of junior doctors who responded to our survey are thinking about leaving the NHS, we have a serious problem. If even a fraction of these doctors decide enough is enough, the impact on patients will be devastating. We simply cannot afford to lose junior doctors when the NHS is already on its knees. The reasons doctors gave us tell us just how damaging real terms pay cuts have been, along with poor working conditions. 



Of doctors who strongly agreed with the statement that they often think about leaving the NHS, 85% point to their level of pay as one the main reasons. While 83% name deteriorating working conditions and pay erosion since 2008/9. If we’re to prevent a mass exodus of junior doctors from the NHS, pay restoration is the bare minimum. When we asked about junior doctors who had already left the NHS, a clear pattern emerged. 



More than three quarters of doctors who responded to the survey told us they have friends and colleagues who’ve left in the last 12 months and gone to work as a doctor in a different country. So already, we are losing valuable talent and experience to other countries because they offer fairer pay and better working conditions. We also learnt many doctors are considering other professions altogether. 



Management consultancy, working in private practice or in the pharmaceutical industry are all deemed attractive options for junior doctors who are fed up with pay and conditions within the NHS.  



62% of doctors planning to work abroad would opt for Australia or New Zealand. Meaning the NHS could lose huge numbers of its workforce to countries thousands of miles away, where doctors can afford the cost of living and work in better conditions.  


A potent mix of pay cuts, poor working conditions, snowballing inflation and the draw of other professions and other countries is creating a crisis. As this survey confirms, many junior doctors are reaching the limit of what they can tolerate.  

The government must act now for the sake of both junior doctors and their patients.