Doctors deserve higher pay rise, survey finds

by Tim Tonkin

Calls by the BMA for doctors to receive a fair pay rise have received strong backing from the public, a recent survey reveals. 

Location: UK
Last reviewed: 22 March 2021
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Sixty-two per cent of those questioned in a BMA-commissioned survey agreed that doctors deserved a pay rise in relation to their work battling COVID-19, with nearly three quarters of those taking part supporting an increase of 3 per cent or more. 

The findings come as the association launches a new campaign in England ‘Fairness for the Front line’ which is demanding that consultants, who have seen a significant diminishment of their real-term pay over the past decade, be given a fair and reasonable salary rise. 

The campaign is in response to the Government’s recommendation to the Doctors and Dentists Review Body on 4 March that NHS staff receive just a 1 per cent pay increase – despite the unprecedented demands placed on doctors and healthcare staff during the pandemic.

Recognise effort

BMA consultants committee chair Rob Harwood (pictured above) said a majority of those responding to the survey endorsing pay rises of 3 per cent and above for NHS doctors, showed ministers had been out of touch when recommending just 1 per cent earlier this month. 

He added the pressures of COVID-19 coupled with the looming challenges posed by the backlog of unmet non-COVID care, meant highly experienced doctors such as consultants deserved a pay increase that suitably recognised their contributions to the health service. 

Over the top

He 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 per cent pay rise, after years of under pay and given consultants’ extraordinary efforts throughout this pandemic, it is nothing more than insulting. We believe that at least 5 per cent 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.’

Commissioned by the BMA, the BritainThinks survey questioned more than 2,000 adults across the UK in late February this year.

Successive below inflationary pay rises have seen the estimated value of take-home pay for the average consultant in England fall in real-terms value from £67,752 in 2008/09 to just £48,356 in 2019/20.