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Only 36% of NHS consultants are women, pay gap review finds

Only 36% of NHS consultants are women, pay gap review finds
By Elisabeth Mahase, Lea Legraien
29 March 2019

Women working in the NHS are underrepresented across senior medical grades, with only 36% of consultants being female, a review has found.

The interim results of the Gender Pay Gap in Medicine Review, commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care, showed that there are 32,000 male consultants to just 18,000 female.

Women are instead overrepresented in lower paid specialties, including public and occupational health, with few working in the highest paying specialties – such as urology and surgery – the review found.

Two in three consultants are men, according to the review, which also found that male doctors get £1.17 for every £1 earned by female doctors, meaning the gender pay gap for doctors now stands at 17%. The overall gender pay gap in the NHS is 23% – higher than the average national pay gap of 17.9% .

It is also significantly above the 15% difference in pay between male and female doctors that NHS England revealed last year, which encouraged the then health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt to ask Professor Dame Jane Dacre to conduct a review aiming to eradicate that gap.

The review’s interim findings also revealed that male GPs earn 33% more than their female counterparts, ‘far higher than the average in medicine’.

Professor Dacre, former president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: ‘Our research shows that the gender pay gap in medicine is slowly narrowing, but with more to do.

The findings of the review will help us to work with government, employers and the profession to identify and understand the main contributors to the gap, and to explore ways to reduce it, based on our evidence.’

Health minister Stephen Hammond said: ‘The founding principle of the NHS is to treat everyone equally, yet women employed in the health service are still experiencing inequality.

‘It’s disappointing to see that the numbers show that two thirds of senior medics are men despite more women starting training and it is essential we understand the underlying causes of the gender pay gap if we are to eradicate it from modern workplaces like the NHS.

‘Senior doctors and managers have an important role to play in breaking down barriers and championing equality as role models or mentors so aspiring doctors know they are joining a health service that encourages more women to reach their full potential.’

BMA GP Committee sessional chair Dr Zoe Norris said: ‘Assuming that the review is comparing like for like, I think is surprising and shocking and really disappointing. There is no excuse for that gap, a GP is a GP, and from the day we qualify we are doing that job.

‘Gender should not make a difference. I would encourage all colleagues to look at what they are earning and talk openly about it with their colleagues, and make sure this is not happening.’

The final review, which will be published in September, will identify the impact of cultural, practical and psychological issues that contribute to the gender pay gap in medicine.

The research, which is being conducted by gender pay expert Professor Carol Woodhams and analysts from the University of Surrey, involved an in-depth analysis of anonymised pay data, evidence obtained from interviews conducted with medics at various career stages, and an online survey of 40,000 doctors.

As Healthcare Leader recently reported, it is unlikely that NHS England will meet the challenge to achieve equal board representation by 2020, as progress has been slow and the majority of chair and non-executive roles are still occupied by men.

A version of this story was first published on our sister publication Pulse.

Additional reporting Valeria Fiore. 

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