I am one of the least qualified, least skilled and lowliest
paid doctors in my hospital. My days are spent searching for missing heaps of
patient notes, running errands and chasing up blood test results. I am a
‘junior house officer’, a useful but dispensable cog in a vast machine.
Despite my humble position I am paid a whopping £37,000 a year.
If I became a consultant the taxpayer would be sending me home with at about £90,000. Were I to prefer a nine-‘til-five job as a GP then I would be raking in a fat £100,000, more if I played the system well. The overstretched NHS budget sets aside enough cash to ensure that the doctors’ car park is packed with luxury cars and that we can leave the chaotic communities that supply our hospital for big houses in the charming villages and estates out of town.
We are quick to justify our pay with a battery of compelling arguments: we work hard, I know that from experience; we have big responsibilities, I know that from watching my seniors; we are also well qualified and have to endure a protracted training, both in university and on the job. But teachers, social workers and other professionals in the public sector work long hours too, some of that at home and unrecognised. While peoples’ lives don’t depend upon their decisions, life opportunities and security do. It is unfair that our salaries dwarf theirs.
In medicine there has been a long-standing acknowledgement that nurses work hard and are under paid. A nurse starts on a relatively modest £16,000 and works regular nights and weekends. It is usually nurses that give patients the most support during their stressful times in hospital. If a nurse reaches the very top and becomes a nurse consultant then he or she will just about earn what I do now. This pay inequality does nothing to ease our occasionally stormy relationship. The unseen, grey-clad auxiliary-staff who work so hard to keep the wards clean receive a piffling sum. Doctors have succeeded masterfully in condemning this meanness while never questioning the justice of their own salaries.
Amazingly no one objects to our pay, but then we hide the numbers so well behind a tangle of pay bands and percentages that it is unlikely that anyone really knows the scale of the opulence. Also who is going to criticise the pay of such awesome lifesavers.
Writing this will certainly earn me a few enemies, doctors enjoy the money they earn and most feel that it is well deserved. They will not appreciate someone suggesting that their salaries are on a scale that is unjustified and reflects badly upon their motives for joining their profession. To our shame there has not been so much as a whisper in the medical press questioning the generosity of salaries, only a clamouring for more money.
Could doctors pay be redistributed to the more stingily paid members of the health professions and other public sector workers to reflect work load, training and responsibility rather then assumed social standing? Bringing some pay equality into the public sector would thrill those who rightly feel underappreciated. Maybe money freed up could go towards more drugs, machines or nurses, there are never enough. (Last week our ward closed due to a shortage of nurses, the doctors and beds sat idle.)
Alternatively that extra money could be used to address the
social deprivations that the medical profession knows are the cause of so much
Some doctors would certainly rebel, throw down their scalpels, ditch their stethoscopes or fling their couches from the window. They would go private, go to Australia and go loudly. But when the dust settled we would be left with the doctors whose motivation was caring for their patients, and there are many of them. The vacancies created would be filled by the queues of doctors who are on the dole and later, by the hoards of clever sixth formers desperate to enter medical school.
Doctors have often compared their salaries to high fliers in the private sector. This is irrelevant, we are state funded service providers and a salary that befitted this role would be more appropriate than the present excess. We do work hard to for the patients in our community, but off the golden pedestal we have allowed ourselves to be placed upon we could serve them even better.
Mark Jopling. Reprinted from The Spectator
Click here to email Mark Jopling
19 November. A junior doctor writes:
As regards the poor berated junior doctor, I disagree. I know a pastoral deputy head teacher who made what he thinks may be the first mistake with serious consequences in a thirty year record of impeccable service. I was on hand to help him deal with the stress he felt. We deal with that often and are renumerated for it.
It sounds crazy, but a lot of us are struggling. Moving regions and renting and paying a mortgage is expensive. My house is still on the market. Hidden costs and exams are expensive as is travelling 90 minutes each way on the motorway to work. I pay £30 a week just for the privilege of parking at work, which when I am having to stay with family more than fifty miles away is a little harsh. I could get up at 5am instead of 5.30am to park half an hour away for free, then walk the rest of the way.
I may be ranting, but Jopling does not
appreciate these things, which I believe are worse for others than myself and particularly exacerbated by the
current climate of insecurity. (Look at
how much people are spending on literally hundreds of job applications.)
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