A Doctor’s Pay in the UK: NHS Salary Structure

“How much will I get paid as a doctor in the UK?” This is quite possibly the most frequently asked question by budding UK doctors, and plays a decisive role for many who want to move to the UK. Knowing the salary of a doctor in the UK is therefore an important query to clear.

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”


Like the quote of the Greek stoic philosopher above, spending is as important as earning, ergo we will discuss both pay and expenditure of a doctor in the UK.


Pay Scale for doctors in the NHS is arranged as levels

It is essential that you familiarize yourself with the different levels of doctors in the UK and what they are called. Even non-trainee doctors have a level depending on their responsibilities. The photo below shows different levels of doctors and also where you can start your first non-training job according to you background before GMC registration, so you can understand your salary after PLAB, MRCP/MRCS, etc.

Pay scale is determined on the basis of two things:

  1. Obviously, AT WHAT LEVEL (as pictured above) you are employed. Be 100% sure that you know this before you start your job.
  2. How many hours per week will you be working? Will your rota include working night duties/long days (a.k.a on-calls) or is it a shift based duty? Or will it be basic hours only?

So, for basic hours only, there is a fixed basic pay depending on the level of the doctor:

Banding or Enhancement of pay for doctors in the UK

Banding is a variable supplement to reflect how many extra hours are being worked on average, the type of working pattern, the frequency of extra duty, and the antisocial nature of the working arrangements. If a doctor is working 40 hours a week on average, and the hours are always Monday to Friday, within 8am-5pm, NO BANDING applies. That means they will get paid only basic pay.

So you can easily expect a 30-40% (of your basic pay) additional pay on top of your basic pay if you are doing on-calls and night shifts. So your GROSS Pay= Basic Pay + Banding/Enhancements.

The important thing is to making sure that you know your BASIC PAY and GROSS PAY AFTER ENHANCEMENTS before starting the job.

Taxes and other deductions

Generally if you are employed in a fixed term contract with an NHS trust, your income tax, National Insurance (NI) and NHS Pension (if you don’t opt out it) will automatically be deducted from your pay and and you will be paid the rest. This is called PAYE (pay as you earn).

So, you don’t have to think about or remember to pay taxes. Other taxes and bills like council tax, utility bills can also have a direct debit system where they will timely take the bill from your bank account and again, you don’t have to remember to pay.

Income tax

If you are in a fixed term contract with a NHS trust, you tax code should be 1250L. Make sure you ask for a P46 form to fill before your payroll is setup, otherwise you will be taxed at a Basic Rate without any personal allowance. This is important to know because if you aren’t aware, you won’t be able to find out whether you are getting paid correctly or not.

You can claim tax relief for different cost related to your work, How to claim tax relief

National Insurance

The national insurance is contributed from both the employers and the employees. Employees- your contribution will be deducted from your pay by the employer.

NHS Pension

How much is the take-home pay for doctors in the UK?

As mentioned earlier, you have to know how much you will get paid after enhancements before taxes to have a general quote. This is why you should ask for your WORK SCHEDULE from the HR of your hospital. It should mention things like this:

So for a total annual pay of £53,019.08, taking 9.3% NHS pension into account, I use the salary calculator to find out what will be my take-home pay (deducting taxes and pension and national insurance).

At this point again, I want you to look the photo at the top of this post again, where I mentioned which level you can start depending on your previous qualification, and check the general pay. The above example is for my position and specifically my rota.

Your gross pay may change depending on your contract and hours and that’s why it is VERY important to know this information when you agree to take a job. By using online calculators, you can easily find out what your take home pay will be.

A fresh graduate junior doctor who completed internship and obtained GMC registration via PLAB, can potentially earn between £2450 – £2900 (FY2-CT1) per month as basic pay (no on calls or out of hours).

Is the pay same for training and non-training doctors?

The payment structure is based on the level you will be employed. A training doctor will get their pay in the UK funded by the deanery, and a non-training doctor will get their pay in the UK by the individual trusts. There is little to no room for negotiation with deanery but which may not be the case for trusts. So, technically speaking you can negotiate to get paid more in non-training jobs based on your previous experience.

But the basic pay structure at different levels as mentioned above more or less stays the same for training and non-training doctors.

Pay for GP or medicine & surgery consultants in the UK

The pay for salaried GP, specialty doctor and consultants varies mainly in terms of tenure of working and different threshold. If you are interested to know you can know everything from here.

The questions like “How much a dermatologist get paid in the UK?” “Who are the highest paid consultants in the UK?” are very difficult to answer. When you take up a consultant job you agree to a pay and negotiate based on your tenure and work experience. So the pay two Emergency Medicine consultant will not be the same (which is not the case for junior doctors).

Also some consultants or GPs can involve in private clinics which increase your pay substantially. So, the pay for consultants and GPs in the UK are very variable.

What about the cost of living?

Epictetus’ words come forth here again. Even if you earn £2500 a month it may not be enough if you spend twice that on average. Where could the money be spent?

  • Food
  • Housing
  • Clothes
  • Transportation
  • Personal Care
  • Entertainment

It is vital you know how to budget your allowance. There’s no need to scrimp and save, but you should be practical about the amount of money being deposited and the amount being spent. That being said, some things cannot be helped depending on location. For instance, a studio flat in London can cost you £800-£1000/month or even more, whereas in Liverpool or Hull, it might be £500-£700/month or less. Also look into hospital provided accommodations if offered, they tend to be considerably cheaper, less of a hassle, and are close to your hospital.

There are many cost of living comparison sites on the internet, so with a little digging, you can have a general idea regarding the cost of living.

For a quick snapshot- the cost of living in London is 55% more expensive than in Manchester, 64% more than Liverpool, 167% more than in Dhaka, 210% more than Delhi, and 251% more than Islamabad. [Source: expatistan.com]

So think about location before you take a job if you’re concerned about saving. Learn more about the hospital and surroundings and cost of living situation. If you don’t live in a big city, your expenditure per month for two people should not exceed £1000.

Also you can check out ways How to save money in the UK.

What about extra-hours or overtime?

Yes, in addition to your fixed job hours, you can work extra hours and shifts, these are mostly locum shifts/duties. There are two conditions thart have to be met:

  • You have to be free from your rostered duty
  • A locum shift have to be available on your day off

The hourly rate is definitely higher than your main job and as it highly varies from trust to trust and place to place, it’s beyond general discussion. You will definitely get to know about this, when you start working in the UK. But, yes, a considerable amount can be earned doing locum shifts/duties along with your day-to-day job, if you are up to it.

To summarize

There is more to life than money and to think that in a country like the UK, doctors don’t make a liveable wage, would be a mistake. Yes, there are definitely other countries where doctors are paid more, but often the cost of living, working hours, and standard of life are not taken into account.

“Money is numbers and numbers never end. If it takes money to be happy, your search for happiness will never end.”

Bob Marley

Good luck!