Survey reveals junior doctors struggling with cost of living

  • Date: 20 December 2022

NEARLY half of junior doctors (45.3 per cent) now report struggling to afford rent or mortgage, and 50.8 per cent have had difficulty paying to heat and light their homes in the past year, according to a survey conducted by the BMA.

The survey of 4,500 junior doctors has found that as the cost of living has spiralled, 29.8 per cent of junior doctors have used their overdraft for consecutive months to pay bills and 27.7 per cent say they have not repaid credit card borrowing for consecutive months.

Around half (49.5 per cent) report having borrowed money from family or friends in the last twelve months as wages have failed to rise with inflation.

Many junior doctors report working longer hours to make ends meet, with 71.4 per cent saying they have undertaken extra shifts on top of their standard contracts over the past year. The BMA is concerned that junior doctors are becoming increasingly exhausted and burnt out, risking health and patient safety. A BMA survey carried out earlier this year found that 62 per cent of junior doctors said they were suffering from a mental health condition related to or made worse by their work or study.

The BMA points out that junior doctors have seen a decade of real-terms pay cuts, with their pay having fallen 26.1 per cent between 2008/09 and 2021/22, one of the steepest falls in pay for any workforce across the public and private sectors.

Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs, said: "Constantly worrying about how to pay our bills is leading many junior doctors to question their future in the NHS.

"This Government needs to stop pretending that the pressures we’re seeing this winter isn’t a crisis of their making, stop ignoring our calls to meet with ministers and sit down and offer some reasonable practical solutions while there are still juniors doctors left in the NHS."

Commenting on survey, Naeem Nazem, Head of Medical Division at MDDUS, said: "These findings paint a bleak picture of the current experience of junior doctors.

"Earlier this year, we surveyed our junior doctor members and found that one in three are rarely or never able to buy nutritious food at work. The lack of access to affordable food means they often work through the night, hungry and exhausted.

“We heard of doctors turning to fast food delivery apps as a short-term solution. This is not sustainable – and the cost implications for junior doctors of having to regularly buy fast food at work are spelled out by the BMA survey.

“Many are resorting to skipping meals to keep costs down and, ultimately, patients will suffer.

“A tired doctor with worries about their finances is a doctor with increased risk of making mistakes. Two-thirds of junior doctors (66 per cent) told us they fear patient safety is at risk when they work while hungry and tired. Financial and personal wellbeing and patient safety are inextricably linked.”

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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