Junior doctors’ pay: £14 per hour.
I think a lot of people would be surprised junior doctors on very long shifts earn £14 an hour.
During the recent junior doctors’ strikes in England, the Labour MP Nadia Whittome claimed in a widely shared tweet that junior doctors are paid £14 an hour.
The broadcaster Kate Garraway also made a similar claim during an interview with the education minister Gillian Keegan, who disputed it, on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
So did the deputy chair of the London Assembly, Dr Onkar Sahota, the day before, saying on Twitter: “Now a junior doctor earns £14.09 per hour.”
And we’ve also seen many similar claims on Facebook.
While a minority of junior doctors in England do earn around £14 an hour in basic pay, these claims are potentially misleading because they fail to make it clear that most junior doctors earn more.
We have written before about the £14.09 an hour figure, which was the basic pay in 2022/23 for newly qualified doctors in England, who make up roughly 11% of junior doctors as a whole. It therefore does not apply to most junior doctors, or include any of the additional pay that many of them earn, for instance by working unsocial hours or in expensive parts of the country.
Since this was the hourly rate for the 2022/23 financial year, it will also be out of date soon.
Although England’s junior doctor pay dispute continues, on 13 July the government announced a new pay uplift for the current financial year, meaning that even the most junior doctors will be paid more than £14.09 an hour in basic pay.
However, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) told Full Fact that this higher rate has not yet been applied to their payslips at the time of writing. DHSC has also said that all uplifts in pay will be backdated to April 2023. It hopes to implement this in the autumn.
We’ve seen many misleading claims about pay during recent industrial disputes, including claims about junior doctors’ pay demands, how much it would cost to raise nurses’ pay and how much their pay is rising. We’ve also fact checked claims about the pay of rail workers.
It’s essential that all sides use accurate information when talking about pay, with all necessary context and caveats, so that the public can understand the facts about what people earn, what unions are asking for, and how much a pay rise might cost.
This article is about England only, which is the part of the NHS that the UK government controls.
Ms Whittome’s office told us that her tweet was expressed in a shorthand way and was intended to show how little some doctors are paid.
Good Morning Britain told us that Ms Garraway’s comments were based on images earlier in the show of junior doctors holding signs displaying the £14 an hour figure. It also told us that Ms Keegan’s comments would tell viewers that the figure was disputed.
We also approached Dr Sahota for comment.
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What junior doctors earn
According to the latest data, covering March 2023, NHS England employs the equivalent of 66,466 full-time “junior doctors”, meaning they belong in one of the four training grades used in the definition from the British Medical Association (BMA).
Earnings vary substantially between junior doctors, according to how senior they are, how many hours they work, what kind of work they do, and other factors.
The lowest paid are the most junior, as you might expect. They are in Foundation Year 1 (FY1), which is the first year of work following graduation from medical school.
NHS England publishes average annual earnings figures, the most recent of which cover the year up to the end of March 2023.
In this period, the mean annual earnings for a junior doctor in FY1, including basic and additional pay, was £37,071. In the same period speciality registrars, who are the highest grade of junior doctor, earned an average of £63,350.
Doctors’ payslips include an hourly rate of basic pay, which is used to calculate part of their earnings for that week.
In 2022/23, this hourly rate of basic pay was £14.09 for FY1 doctors, although this did not include the additional pay that many earned.
All these pay figures show how much doctors earn before any tax has been deducted.
How has this changed?
On 13 July 2023, the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration recommended that junior doctors should receive a 6% pay rise plus £1,250 in 2023/24. It also recommended that this should be backdated to 1 April.
On the same day, the government said that it accepted the recommendations in full.
This takes the annual basic pay for FY1 doctors up to £32,397 in the current financial year.
We have not yet seen an example of the new annual figures being applied as an hourly rate, but if we used the same method applied by the BMA last year, it would equate to an hourly rate of basic pay for the most junior doctors of about £15.53.
In theory, junior doctors are already being paid the new hourly rate, since it will be backdated to 1 April 2023. However, as we’ve already said, DHSC expects that this pay rise will not be implemented until the autumn.
Image courtesy of David Woolfall