Pay Issues Causing Doctors to Consider Life Outside the NHS

Peter Russell

September 07, 2020

More than a thousand doctors have said they are considering leaving the NHS because of pay, staffing shortages, and disillusionment with the Government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Doctors' Association UK said while ministers had enthusiastically filmed themselves as they clapped for NHS staff during the height of the pandemic, they had "done little or nothing" to show practical support.

The survey showed that 69% of doctors said they were likely to leave the NHS because of the impact of the coronavirus. Of those, 28% were thinking of pursuing their career abroad.

The Association said the results should remind the Government of important steps needed to avoid a staffing crisis.

Pay and PPE

The findings were based on a poll of 1758 frontline doctors. It showed that factors affecting their likelihood of leaving the health service were:

  • No real-terms pay rise (74%)

  • A lack of PPE putting their lives at risk (65%)

  • Repeal of promises made during the pandemic, such as free car parking (46%)

  • Impact of the pandemic on mental health (45%)

  • Impact on family (23%)

  • Visa issues or a lack of indefinite leave to remain for migrant doctors (20%)

Frontline staff had been left feeling "exploited and expendable", the Doctors' Association UK said.

Its President, Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, said: "NHS doctors have come out of this pandemic battered, bruised and burnt out. These are dedicated professionals who have put their lives on the line time and time again to keep patients in the NHS safe, and we could be about to lose them.

"These figures are a shocking indictment of the Government's failure to value our nation's doctors.

"It is abhorrent that promises made during the pandemic to look after our frontline staff are already being taken away, at a time when we are still mourning colleagues and the true mental health impact of the pandemic on healthcare workers is only just coming to the fore.

"Crueller still is the inexplicable decision to exclude junior doctors, GPs, nurses, and paramedics from an above the board pay rise, resulting in yet another real-terms cut.

"The Government seems to have a very short memory to abandon the very same people that they clapped for every single Thursday just months ago."

The poll revealed that 74% of frontline doctors cited a lack of real-terms pay rise for why they were thinking of quitting the NHS.

NHS People Plan

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said:  "We are incredibly proud of all our staff who work in both NHS and social care settings, and supporting their mental health and wellbeing is our absolute priority.

"We want all staff to be able to work flexibly and to access the practical and emotional support they need to look after their physical and mental health, and the NHS People Plan published last month demonstrates our commitment to making the NHS the best possible place to work.

"We have been working tirelessly to deliver PPE to protect people on the front line, with over 3.1 billion items delivered and more than 31 billion have been ordered from UK-based manufacturers and international partners to provide a continuous supply."

The DHSC said it had accepted in full the recommendation of the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration for a 2.8% pay rise, backdated to April 2020 for consultants, specialty doctors, salaried GPs, and dentists.

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