Government Action Promised on Gender Pay Gap Among Doctors

Peter Russell

December 16, 2020

Female hospital doctors are paid 18.9% less than their male counterparts, a Government commissioned review has revealed.

The report, Mend the Gap: The Independent Review into Gender Pay Gaps  in Medicine in England , also found a higher disparity in the health service than other professions, with 2% for accountants and 8% for teachers.

"Even if you account for the expected causes of the pay gap and you try and whittle those gaps down, they're still substantial," said Prof Dame Jane Dacre from University College London, who led the study.

The Government said it was committed to addressing the discrepancies.

Gender Pay Gap in Medicine 'Complex and Wide Ranging'

An analysis of raw payroll data among health professionals found gender pay gaps of:

  • 24.4% for hospital and community health service doctors

  • 33.5% for GPs

  • 21.4% for clinical academics

However, these gaps narrowed when researchers took into account hours worked, grades, and specialities.

Women were more likely to work part-time hours, while male doctors had more experience and were likely to hold senior positions.

Even after statistical adjustment, the gender pay gap remained substantive for many doctors, particularly GPs, the review found.

The mean annual pay of male GPs in England – both contractor and salaried – in 2016-17 was £93,760 compared to £75,671 for female GPs.

The mean whole-time equivalent pay gap for GPs was 15.3%, and 11.5% for clinical academics.

The report also highlighted the need for research into how pay differs according to ethnic background.

The report makes several recommendations for addressing the gender pay gap. These include using fewer medical scale points, prioritising retention and promotion of women to senior levels, and eliminating the pay and career penalty for women who work less than full time.

"The causes of the gender pay gap in medicine are complex and wide ranging and will require a system-wide effort to tackle," Prof Dacre said.

'Redoubling Efforts' to Remove Barriers for Women: Minister

In response, the Government said it was committed to tackle the pay gap by dismantling barriers, making senior roles more accessible to women, improving pay transparency, and promoting cultural change. It promised to establish an Implementation Panel to help address barriers outlined in the report.

Helen Whately, the minister for care, said: "We will all lose out if talented women feel unable to continue working in healthcare – promising careers ended early and vital expertise and experience lost at a time when we need it more than ever.

"I'm redoubling my efforts to work with the profession to remove the barriers stopping people from achieving their full potential. I want the NHS to be a truly diverse and inclusive employer."

Responding to the review and the Government's initiatives, Dr Helena McKeown, British Medical Association representative body chair, said: "Paying doctors, indeed anyone, different amounts for the same job, because of their sex, has been illegal for over 45 years. And yet in effect it's still happening in the medical profession.

"This review shows how far we still have to go before doctors are paid according to their skills, their job role and their hours, and not their gender or desire to have children."


The HCSA (Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association) said that while women hospital doctors begin as equals as trainees, time taken out from the workplace meant that women health professionals could wait up to 35 years – until age 65 – to regain parity with their male colleagues.

HCSA President Dr Claudia Paoloni said: "The service needs to catch up with the reality that the profession is going to be female-dominated in future, and the culture and policies governing hospital doctors need to be dragged into the 21st century."

The Medical Women's Federation said it looked forward to seeing the details of the implementation plan, and a timescale for when changes would be achieved.

Prof Neena Modi, the federation's president, said: "Women make up almost half of all NHS doctors yet they remain the victims of pay discrimination that emerges in large part, from a perpetuation of the premise that family and childcare are primarily their responsibilities, rather than shared with men.

"This is shocking, as gender-based assumptions have no place in a 21st century workforce."

Speaking for the BMA, Helena McKeown, said: "We must learn from this review and make sure we put actions into place to deal with this. It’s too easy to say that in the time of COVID-19, this is a ‘nice to have’ and not a priority, but if we want to ensure the medical profession is fit not only for the next generation of medics who will take us beyond the current pandemic, but for the wider NHS, it’s imperative we do."

Professor Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians said: "We look forward to the implementation panel being established quickly and system-wide action as soon as possible that removes the gender pay gap in medicine for good."


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