Most countries pay more for doctors than the UK

You may have heard that junior doctors are striking over pay. Whilst there are other issues involved such as patient safety and fairness, pay has proven to be a key point in the media narrative.

Maybe you think doctors earn more than enough. Maybe you don’t. Either way, it’s worth knowing what doctors get paid elsewhere.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has just put out a handy document called Health at Glance. This details doctors pay across 24 countries, and puts UK pay in an international context.

Here’s their (admittedly complex) table of results:

doctors renumeration

What this table shows is that the average UK doctor is paid more than twice the average UK citizen. As a future doctor, I will not complain about that. It seems churlish and ungrateful.

What I will point out is that UK doctors come a lot cheaper than some other countries. Comparing the ratio of doctors wages to average wages:

  • Salaried specialists are more expensive in eight countries – Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico and The Netherlands
  • Self-employed specialists are rare in the UK but common elsewhere. In five countries where they are common, they cost more than the UK – Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada and France
  • Salaried GPs are more expensive than the UK in seven countries- Israel, Luxembourg, Mexico, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain
  • Self-employed GPs cost more in only one country – Germany.
  • Eight countries that only report self-employed GPs pay spend more than a salaried GP costs- Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland

This seems to show two clear conclusions:

  1. UK doctors are relatively cheap – 13 out of 22 countries pay relatively more to their specialists, and 18 out of 19 pay more for their GPs
  2. Self-employed doctors in other countries cost more than salaried doctors in the UK

Asa medical student, I’m clearly biased but I think doctors, especially juniors, deserve to keep their salaries at the levels they are. They work hard, improve people’s lives and often go beyond the call of duty to care for their patients.

To all those who think doctors should earn less, bear in mind a couple of things.

Firstly, British doctors are incredible value-for-money compared to doctors elsewhere. Nearly all of them could move abroad and enjoy relatively higher salaries

Secondly, doctors who are against privatising the NHS aren’t doing it because they get so well rewarded as public employees. If they became self-employed in private practise, judging from the rest of the world, doctors would start earning a whole lot more.

Think of that next time you see a Daily Mail headline criticising doctors for thinking of striking.


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