Health & Lifestyle

How striking NHS consultants can earn up to £500,000 a year: Shock salaries revealed

The best-paid NHS consultant takes home nearly £500,000 a year, figures show.

One unidentified senior doctor, who works in the Midlands, pocketed £489,500 in 2020, according to NHS data. 

Two other top-paid medics, based in the Midlands and London, earned £386,000 and £385,500, respectively.

Nearly a tenth of the workforce earned more than £165,000 — the Prime Minister’s salary.

The salary figures, seen by MailOnline, come as consultants are set to stage a two-day strike this month in a bid for more pay. 

Latest health service figures for 2022 show the average annual basic pay for full time equivalent consultants now stands at £104,357 (top left graphic). However, the same data shows this actually extends to £126,125 per year, with their base wages topped up through overtime, medical awards and geographic allowances (bottom right chart)

Latest health service figures for 2022 show the average annual basic pay for full time equivalent consultants now stands at £104,357 (top left graphic). However, the same data shows this actually extends to £126,125 per year, with their base wages topped up through overtime, medical awards and geographic allowances (bottom right chart)

Patients face the worst strike disruption in NHS history after consultants announced a walkout straight after one by junior doctors (Pictured: Junior doctor's strike in Trafalgar Square on April 11)

Patients face the worst strike disruption in NHS history after consultants announced a walkout straight after one by junior doctors (Pictured: Junior doctor’s strike in Trafalgar Square on April 11)

Consultants, who take home £128,000 from the NHS, on average, are able to profit during strikes by doing lucrative private work.  

Their walk-out will follow five days of picket line carnage by junior doctors, in what will be the longest ever walk-out in the NHS’s 75-year history. 

Health leaders fear the ‘double whammy’ will cause disruption to ‘many thousands’ of patients and pose a ‘huge risk’ to hospitals.

The figures, released by NHS Digital, show that of England’s 48,000 consultants in 2020, a dozen earned more than £350,000.

Around 600 made more than £200,000 and 7,700 earned £150,000 or higher. 

The sums include consultants’ basic salary plus add-ons for bonuses and overtime. 

Nearly one in 10 (9.4 per cent) earned £165,000 or more, which matches Rishi Sunak’s salary. He earns roughly £85,000 as an MP and an additional £80,000 for being PM. 

Latest health service figures for 2022 show the average annual basic pay for full time equivalent consultants now stands at £104,357. 

However, the same data shows this actually extends to £126,125 per year, with their base wages topped up through overtime, medical awards and geographic allowances.

High-performing consultants, along with dentists and academic GPs in England and Wales, who go ‘above and beyond’ can earn National Clinical Impact Awards, which pays out bonuses of £20,000 to £40,000 to thousands of medics.

Jonathan Eida, researcher of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Brits will wonder why high flying doctors are heading for the picket line.

‘Consultants enjoy pay and perks that most people can only dream of.

‘Taxpayers expect well remunerated medics to be treating patients, not playing politics.’

Professor Len Shackleton, editorial and research fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs, told MailOnline that while many consultants are ‘rightly very well paid’ for their work, now is ‘not the time for the best-paid doctors to hold out for huge pay increases’.

He noted that consultants have ‘exceptionally generous pension arrangements’ and while their pay has ‘slipped back recently’, the same is true ‘for most of the workforce’.

Patients are facing record waiting lists, some find it ‘impossible’ to get a GP appointment and ‘many’ are not getting treated for illnesses ‘which may kill them’, Professor Shackleton said. 

‘Very few of these patients will have incomes which are keeping pace with inflation, let alone rising well above it,’ he said.

Professor Shackleton added: ‘This is not the time for the best-paid doctors to hold out for huge pay increases while nurses have had to accept lower increases. For all the hype about 75 years of our wonderful NHS, many taxpayers who depend on it are getting increasingly disgruntled.

‘We need a comprehensive reform of the NHS to boost productivity and access. Stuffing consultants’ mouths with gold, as Nye Bevan once put it, would do nothing to help with this.’ 

The number of people waiting for routine hospital treatment in England soared to a record 7.42million (red line) in April, figures show. More than 370,000 people in the queue for routine ops, such as hip replacements, were waiting for more than a year (yellow bars)

The number of people waiting for routine hospital treatment in England soared to a record 7.42million (red line) in April, figures show. More than 370,000 people in the queue for routine ops, such as hip replacements, were waiting for more than a year (yellow bars)

NHS data on A&E performance in May shows that three-quarters of emergency department attendees (74 per cent) were seen within four hours (red line). Meanwhile, 31,494 patients who sought help in emergency departments were forced to wait more than 12 hours — equivalent to more than 1,000 patients per day (yellow bars)

NHS data on A&E performance in May shows that three-quarters of emergency department attendees (74 per cent) were seen within four hours (red line). Meanwhile, 31,494 patients who sought help in emergency departments were forced to wait more than 12 hours — equivalent to more than 1,000 patients per day (yellow bars)

Dr Vishal Sharma, chair of the consultants committee at the BMA, said: ‘The average earnings of an NHS consultant in England are not only based on a basic rate of between £42-£57 an hour, but also countless overtime work to make sure patients get the care they deserve.

‘Highlighting a tiny minority earning above this out of some 54,000 consultants completely fails to reflect reality for the profession and what consultants are actually being paid.

‘The truth is that consultants in England have seen their take-home pay fall by 35 per cent since 2008/2009, and that the NHS risks losing these talented and experienced professionals as a result. The Government can prevent this by fixing consultant pay and commit to meaningful reform of the broken pay review process.’

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘This data is outdated. We hugely value the work of NHS consultants and it is disappointing the BMA consultants have voted to take strike action.

‘Consultants received a 4.5 per cent pay uplift last financial year, increasing average earnings to around £127,000, and they will benefit from generous changes to pension taxation announced in the spring Budget.

‘We’ve been engaging with the BMA Consultants Committee on its concerns already and stand ready to open talks again – we urge it to come to the negotiating table rather than proceeding with its proposed strike dates.’

It comes as up to 34,000 consultants are set to strike for 48 hours, from 7am on July 20, claiming their pay has been eroded by 35 per cent over the last 15 years. The move had the backing of 86 per cent of those who voted. 

It will come straight after a five-day walkout by junior doctors, which is set to run from 7am on July 13 to 7am on July 18 – making for the longest walkout since the NHS was founded in 1948.

The combined action is likely to lead to the cancellation of more than 300,000 appointments, hampering efforts to clear record waiting lists of 7.4million.

It is estimated that more than 650,000 routine operations and appointments have been put off since December due to industrial action.

Some consultants covered for junior colleagues during recent strikes, helping to lessen their impact – but this cannot happen the other way around. 

The British Medical Association (BMA) said it would plough on with the strikes unless the Government made a ‘credible’ pay offer that it could put to its members. 

Consultants last participated in a one-day strike in 2012 over pension changes. They also took industrial action in 1975. 

Dr Sharma said: ‘It is not too late to avert strike action and the Government simply needs to come back to us with a credible offer that we can put to our members. But if they refuse, it is with a heavy heart that we will take action.’ 

The Government said that consultants received a 4.5 per cent pay uplift last financial year and are going to benefit from generous changes to their pension.  

It comes after the Mail revealed that consultants are allowed by their union to continue working in private practice even when they are taking industrial action.

Asked last week what Rishi Sunak made of their behaviour, the PM’s official spokesman replied: ‘If consultants choose to take strike action, it cannot be right that some continue to only treat their fee-paying private patients and benefit financially from that while patient care is put at risk in the NHS.

‘We would urge those consultants considering this approach to seriously consider the impact on the NHS. It would not be right to put profit before patients.’ 

The head of the BMA has warned that all four types of doctors could be in dispute with the Government ahead of the election.

Professor Philip Banfield told the Guardian that GPs and specialist doctors may join in the rows over pay and conditions.

Specialists say the value of their pay has fallen by 25 per cent since 2008 while GPs are angry about a new contract being imposed on them.

‘What you could have is a situation where junior doctors, consultants, specialist and speciality doctors and GPs are all in dispute with the government in the run-up to a general election. That is what we are planning for,’ Professor Banfield said. 

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