Viral graphic gets details of ‘becoming a doctor’ wrong

11 January 2024
What was claimed

To become a doctor you need to get a medical degree (for five years), do foundation training (two years) and then specialist training (for four to 10 years).

Our verdict

This isn’t quite right. People become doctors when they complete a medical degree, and are registered with a licence to practise while they complete their first year of foundation training.

What was claimed

A doctor’s starting salary is £28,274.

Our verdict

Incorrect. New doctors in NHS England start with basic pay of £32,397, and earn an average of 29% more in additional pay.

A graphic that has been widely shared on X (formerly Twitter), and on Facebook, gives a potentially misleading description of the process of becoming a doctor, along with an incorrect starting salary.

The graphic says:

“To become a Doctor:

  • Get a Medical Degree (5 years)
  • Foundation Training (2 years)
  • Specialist Training (4-10 yrs)

Starting salary £28,274”

In fact, as we have said in another recent fact check, people do not need to do two years of foundation training or any 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, before being fully registered at the end of that year.

This post also said that a doctor’s starting salary is £28,274, which is not correct, at least in NHS England. This is the minimum figure under the 2002 contract, which in England is closed to new entrants, so no new doctors would receive it.

The current starting salary for a newly qualified doctor is £32,397 in basic pay. Many doctors earn extra pay for various reasons, including working longer hours or at unsocial times.

The latest data from NHS Digital showed that first-year doctors received on average about 29% more in additional earnings, on top of their basic pay, in the year to September 2023. During their career, doctors must also pay some training expenses and professional fees.

After Full Fact emailed the creator of this graphic, he posted a partially corrected version on X, but did not delete the original.

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

Image courtesy of Sasun Bughdaryan

Full Fact fights bad information

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