Observations THE WEEK IN MEDICINE

So how much do doctors really earn?

BMJ 2007; 334 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39112.426481.59 (Published 01 February 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;334:236
  1. Michael Day, freelance journalist, London (miday@f2s.com)

    The rumbling political row over debt in the NHS means that the vexed issue of doctors' pay is not going to go away any time soon.

    Are doctors in the United Kingdom overpaid? An obvious way to address the question is to compare the earnings of UK medics with those of their overseas colleagues. That is easier said than done, though: few if any direct comparisons exist, and any comparison is made difficult by different contractual agreements and working conditions. The UK Treasury has, however, made an attempt, in its latest 2007 comprehensive spending review for the NHS.

    The report contains estimates of average earnings of GPs and hospital doctors in 2003-4 in 16 countries, including the UK's major competitors. The figures are based on research gathered by British embassies. It should be emphasised that the figures are estimates.

    A widening gap

    Nevertheless, a few things leap out from the data, including the large (and, in the case of hospital salaries, huge) lead that US doctors enjoy in pay terms. The second is the very large advantage that UK doctors have over their continental colleagues. GPs in Italy have remarkably low average earnings—the result of the marketplace being flooded with too …

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