Why do black doctors make less money?

‘Shocking’ new report reveals huge NHS pay gap between ethnicities

NHS doctor
(Image credit: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty)

Black NHS doctors are paid on average nearly £10,000 a year less than their white colleagues, according to the biggest ever study on pay in the UK health service.

The NHS Digital report looked at the salaries of 750,000 NHS staff, from consultants to midwives to hospital porters, and found that there was a racial pay gap at all levels.

On average, black men working for the NHS make £5,796 less than their white counterparts, while the equivalent gap for black women is £1,980.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The disparity is especially acute among doctors, with black female and and male medics earning £9,612 and £9,492 less respectively than white ones.

It is the second time this month that the health service has been publicly called out over racial pay disparities.

A study of consultant salaries published in the British Medical Journal revealed that white consultants make an average of £4,664 a year more than senior doctors from BME (black and minority ethnic) backgrounds.

The figures have caused a stir within the NHS, where according to The Independent, ethnic minority employees make up around 20% of the total 1.2 million-strong workforce.

“It cannot be right that in 21st century Britain there are such wide gaps in pay between white and BME doctors when, irrespective of their background, they hold positions to deliver the same care to patients,” Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), told The Guardian.

The acting chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Donna Kinnair, said that the “shocking” disparity was rooted in the under-representation of non-white employees in highly paid top roles.

“The enormous pay gaps highlighted here reflect the appalling lack of diversity at senior levels in the NHS,” she said.

For many observers, however, the pay gap is just one of a myriad of issues facing black and ethnic minority doctors that go far beyond pounds and pence.

Nagpaul said that the recent pay studies were part of “a general pattern of unfair treatment of minority ethnic doctors”.

BME doctors are “more likely to face referral to the General Medical Council, are more likely to have their cases investigated and are more likely to face harsh sanctions following an investigation”, he said.

An internal report into racial inequality in the health service published last year said there had been a narrowing of racial pay gaps, as well as “positive change” in areas such as senior level representation.

However, it noted that BME staff “remain significantly more likely to experience discrimination at work from colleagues and their managers” and “less likely than white staff to believe that their trust provides equal opportunities for career progression”.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.