How much do junior doctors earn?

5 January 2024
What was claimed

Junior doctors are currently paid £14 an hour.

Our verdict

False. Following a pay rise, first-year junior doctors in England receive £15.53 an hour in basic pay only. The average junior doctor, with a few years’ experience, earns much more.

There’s been confusion on social media about the pay of the junior doctors currently on strike—including some posts incorrectly claiming that they are “on £14 an hour”.

We’ve also seen a post claiming that “to become a doctor” takes 11-21 years, and that the starting salary is £28,274.

These claims are not quite correct.

As we’ve said before, the hourly rate of junior doctors’ pay depends on several factors. These include the amount of extra pay they earn, whether you account for things like unpaid overtime and, most importantly, how experienced they are.

The £14 figure was roughly correct for first-year junior doctors in 2022/23, if you excluded any extras. These doctors made up about a tenth of all junior doctors, however, with most earning substantially more. All junior doctors have also since received a pay rise for the current financial year, amounting to 6% plus £1,250 each.

This article only covers junior doctors in England, which is the part of the NHS that the UK government controls, and where junior doctors are currently on strike (3-9 January 2024).

Bad information about public services can spread widely and quickly on social media, giving people a false impression about the country they live in.

Honesty in public debate matters

You can help us take action – and get our regular free email

Who are ‘junior doctors’?

People who have qualified from medical school, but are still training to become specialists, are commonly known as “junior doctors”. During this period, they are doctors who work with patients under the supervision of a more senior doctor, usually a consultant.

It is not true, as one post seems to claim, that people need to do foundation training and specialist training “to become a doctor”. People become doctors when they complete a medical degree, and go on to be provisionally registered with a licence to practise while completing their first year of foundation training.

This post also said that a doctor’s starting salary is £28,274. This is the minimum figure for the 2002 contract, which in England is closed to new entrants, so no new doctors would receive it.

What are they paid?

According to the latest workforce data, there were 72,318 people working in NHS England, whether full- or part-time, within the four broad grades considered to make up “junior doctors”.

Doctors receive rates of basic pay according to their position in a more complex system of pay bands, but the amount that each one earns over the course of a year, or per hour for the work they do, varies from doctor to doctor—according to how much overtime they do, where they work, how many unsocial hours they work, and other factors.

In 2023/24, the basic annual pay for a first-year junior doctor in England is £32,397, after the government also announced a pay rise for junior doctors of 6% plus £1,250 each. This began to be paid in autumn 2023, backdated to April.

With the hourly pay formula used by the British Medical Association (BMA) last year, this works out at basic pay for the most junior doctors of £15.53 per hour.

However, the average or typical junior doctor is not in their first year, and therefore earns much more, even in basic pay.

NHS Digital workforce and earnings data suggests that the average full-time junior doctor in the year to September 2023 earned basic pay of about £44,500.

Half of these earnings happened in the previous financial year, so the average for 2023/24 will be higher. This figure also does not include any extra earnings, which typically increase junior doctors’ earnings by about a third, some of which comes from working extra hours.

Image courtesy of Usman Yousaf

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.