"I was borrowing money from family and friends."
To challenge the government over junior doctors’ deteriorating pay in real terms, a campaign emphasising the fact that they are paid less per hour than coffee shop chain Pret a Manger will be launched soon.
The British Medical Association (BMA) will emphasise how the cost-of-living crisis threatens to drive thousands of doctors out of the profession as they get ready for a three-day strike in England starting on March 13, 2023.
With tens of thousands of pounds in student loans, the majority of junior doctors are beginning their careers in debt.
Earlier in March 2023, Pret said that it was offering employees their third wage raise in a year.
As a result, baristas make between £11.80 and £14.10 per hour, depending on their level of experience and the location of the store.
With the new rates beginning in April 2023, the top hourly wage includes a bonus for delivering excellent service.
In comparison, a junior doctor’s base wage per hour during the first year of work-based training might be as low as £14.09.
This is based on a foundation year 1 pay of £29,384 for the academic year 2022–2023.
Junior doctor Dr Becky Bates from the East Midlands stated she agreed with the compensation increases for Pret employees.
“It’s incredibly impressive they have given the repeated cost of living pay increases this year.
“It’s a shame the government has not seen fit to do the same for the people who work in the NHS.”
Dr Bates now has more than £100,000 in student debt and is paid just £14.09 an hour for her current training role in paediatrics.
She said: “When I started in the summer, I just had £80 in my account to last for a month.
“I couldn’t get a salary advance and I couldn’t afford to eat. I was borrowing money from family and friends.
“It’s going to be potentially very hard for some doctors to continue in medicine, and I don’t think you should be required to have family wealth.
“We want people who are at the top of their game to become doctors, from whatever background.”
The vote for strike action among junior doctors in early 2023 was overwhelmingly positive.
That was the highest turnout ever for a BMA poll of doctors.
The membership organisation representing the NHS hospital, mental health, community, and ambulance services, chaired by Julian Hartley, called for discussions to prevent the strike this past weekend.
He said: “We would like to see both sides enter into negotiations, as soon as possible, even at this 11th hour.
“There’s still time to avert this if they get around the table.
“That will be much better than protracted industrial action, which will only worsen the levels of the backlog of patients waiting for treatment.”
If the strike went forward as scheduled, he predicted that a sizeable number of appointments would be cancelled.
He continued: “It’s very concerning because of the scale and duration of this industrial action.
“There are no derogations, which means emergency departments, intensive care units and cancer wards will all need to be largely covered by consultants.
“It means, of course, that they cannot then be performing their normal duties, and a lot of activities will not be possible as a result.”
According to him, the government’s first objective is to implement a workforce strategy that is adequately financed and addresses issues like job openings, employee retention, recruiting, and working conditions.
Despite the claims, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services stated:
“This comparison is misleading as it does not take into account the additional earning capacity and pay progression available to junior doctors.
“The most experienced junior doctors now have a higher pay band – meaning they received a cumulative increase of 24% over four years.
“We’ve also increased rates of pay for night shifts and created a permanent £1,000 allowance a year for junior doctors who work less than full time, on top of their usual pay.
“We have invited the BMA to enter formal talks covering pay for this current financial year and next, with new investment in pay for doctors and dentists in training.”