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How Much Do Doctors Really Earn?

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Merry Christmas from the Messly Team! As we all start to pack away things and recover from a food bonanza, we want to help put money back into your pocket by looking at our new tax rebate calculator – consider it a Christmas gift from the taxman to you, delivered by us with the help of our partners at the Doctors Tax Rebate.

How do medicine training salaries compare to others? How do they compare to the cost of living? Most importantly, for those starting in their training now, how does it compare to life for our more senior colleagues? We break it all down for you.

Once the dust settled on the recent junior doctor contract talks, we wanted to properly look at the current state of doctors’ pay and see if medicine was really paying for them. After all, it is widely known that it is incredibly expensive to train as a doctor because of the number of courses and exams that are necessary to progress. Only recently have people become aware that such mandatory career requirements are partially tax refundable (depending on level), but we want to see where medicine stands compared to other careers and the cost of living.

What are salaries like now?

Currently, salaries are set from CT/ST1-CT/ST3, and CT/ST4-CT6/7/8. The rates are shown below (BMA, 2017):

Grade Stage of training Nodal point Value (£)
Specialty Registrar (StR) (Core Training) CT1 3 36,461
CT3 4 46,208
Specialty Registrar (StR)(Run-Through Training) and Specialty Registrar (StR)(Higher-Training) and Specialist Registrar (SpR) ST1 3 36,461
ST3 4 46,208

Previously, pay used to be on a 12-point banding scale that rose with each years’ work. Now however, pay is set at a rather flat rate with a real-terms decrease in pay. Based on the raw numbers, the current rates equate to a 26.73% pay rise over the course of training, or 3% per year. (if the pay rise was divided equally throughout the training years).  With current inflation rates at 3% already, doctors-in-training are looking at a stagnation in pay in real terms.

In fact, according to a BBC analysis, pay for medical practitioners has actually fallen by 12% in the last five years when inflation is taken into account. To give some comparison, the rate of inflation itself over the last five years was 12% (ThisIsMoney), and the average UK house price has risen by nearly 30% (Global Property Guide). 

Not only are earnings flat, but they are falling. It is often touted that the average pay in medicine is £70,000, but this figure is arguably distorted, because it fails to take into consideration the training structure for doctors compared with other professions, variability in working hours, career progression and job mobility. For trainees the numbers are far worse. They, along with nurses and many more, are the backbone of the service, doing the jobs that keep patients flowing through the hospital. Let’s do some more comparisons. This time, with legal and engineering fields.

  • The average UK doctor in training will earn approximately £41,000 (BMA). This is based on salary figures we’ve quoted above
  • The average UK lawyer in training will earn approximately £41,000 (Glassdoor)
  • The average UK engineer in training will earn approximately £40,000 (The Engineer)

Fairly comparable on the face of it? But again, this does not consider the training pathways for each career, so the longer training time in medicine results in lower net earnings in the long term. Maximum salaries are higher in other places, however:

  • Lawyers – >£180,000
  • Doctors – £101,000 (not including private practice here)
  • Engineers – ~£80,0000-90,000

Of course, the social and altruistic benefits of being in a profession like medicine are undeniable – but life for trainees is hard, and must be made easier, especially for those undergoing flexible training for example.

So what can I do during my training to help?

With current rotas for trainees, doctors have more time than in the past to do locum work to supplement their income. In doing so it can be a valuable way of compensating for a lower starting salary.

Due to shortages in staff, there are more opportunities ‘to locum’ as well and doctors can also take advantage of rising rates (BMJ Careers).

Traditional agencies have always charged hefty commission rates and can be difficult to deal with. Here at Messly, our focus is on you, the doctor. It is a doctor-first way of locumming that is quick, simple and works around you, whenever you’re free.

  • Our platform connects you directly with available shifts and rota coordinators within those departments
  • Designed by trainees so it works the way you work – simple.
  • The best rates -we don’t charge commission to hospitals to you they can give you the best rates
  • Instantly view or book shifts on the app and totally flexible
  • We’re also on hand for advice whenever you need us! Either on this blog or our forum!

We want finding locum work to be as simple and transparent as ordering a takeaway, so make medicine work better for you!

But the costs of training are still super high…

We hear you. There has been huge discussion about the high costs of training in medicine – even the Financial Times agree! On one hand, it can be argued that it is a necessary part of a profession that (literally) deals in life and death. But it shouldn’t deter those dedicated trainees nor make it prohibitive to those considering a career in healthcare.

New UK laws introduced for tax rebates for doctors have made it easier to train, by allowing you to reclaim some parts of your costs of training. For those who have already undergone training and are looking to do so soon, we want to help you make sure you get your money back from the taxman. A.K.A Jeremy Hunt’s Winter Bonus!

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