Junior doctors’ leaders have launched an advertising campaign ahead of a strike over pay, saying they could earn more serving coffee.
Members of the British Medical Association in England will launch a three-day walkout on Monday following a huge vote for industrial action.
The BMA said newly-qualified medics earn £14.09 an hour – less than a barista in a coffee shop.
The union said junior doctors in England have suffered a 26% real-terms cut to their pay since 2008/09.
Launching the campaign on Sunday, the BMA said: “Pret a Manger has announced it will pay up to £14.10 per hour. A junior doctor makes just £14.09.
“Thanks to this Government you can make more serving coffee than saving patients. This week junior doctors will take strike action so they are paid what they are worth.”
Dr Becky Bates, a first-year junior doctor in the Midlands, said: “I thought by being a doctor I would be able to achieve financial independence, but instead I am still completely dependent on others.
“With tuition fee loans, credit cards and personal loans, I’ve left medical school with over £100,000 debt, and now my wages are not even enough to allow me to fix my car when something goes wrong.
“I’ve found myself only driving around in daytime because my lights don’t work properly.
“I come from a single-parent family. I don’t come from money, yet at 28 I am relying on my mother taking out credit card debt so I can meet these expenses. It’s humiliating for me and it’s not fair on her.
“Looking ahead, I have to move to a different hospital in a different city as part of my training but have no idea how I’ll fund this if I need to move house. I can’t even afford to pay for the exams I need to progress in my career.
“As a junior doctor, I can be responsible for more than 400 patients overnight – assessing them, prescribing medication, having really difficult conversations with families about end-of-life care, and I am the first port of call should something go terribly wrong. Yet our skills and responsibilities are completely devalued.
“My situation is far from unique, and this is why me and the overwhelmingly majority of my colleagues have been forced to take to the picket line this week.”
Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chairmen of the BMA junior doctors committee, said: “Is £14.09 an hour really all junior doctors are worth? These are people who can be providing life-saving care, having trained intensively at medical school, and racking up around £100,000 worth of debt in the process.
“We are fully supportive of any worker getting an inflation-matching pay rise, and it is worth thinking on the fact that the Government has cut junior doctors’ pay by so much that they could earn more serving coffee.
“Is it any surprise that junior doctors are looking for jobs abroad or in other fields when the Government is telling them they are worth more than a quarter less than they were in 2008?
“Losing such valuable clinicians to other countries and professions when waiting lists are at record highs means patients will suffer even more than they are already.
“This is why doctors are going on strike.
“We are fighting to restore our pay. We are fighting to restore our value. We are fighting to restore our workforce to make the NHS an effective healthcare system again.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “It is incredibly disappointing the British Medical Association (BMA) has declined my offer to enter formal pay negotiations on the condition strikes are paused.
“I hugely value the hard work of junior doctors and urge unions to come to the negotiating table and cancel strikes which risk patient safety and impact efforts to tackle the backlog. I want to find a fair settlement which recognises the crucial role of junior doctors and the wider economic pressures facing the UK.
“I’ve been having constructive and meaningful talks with unions representing nurses, ambulance workers and other non-medical staff, which have agreed to pause strike action, and negotiations will continue this week.
“We have been working closely with NHS England on contingency plans to help protect patient safety during strikes, prioritising emergency, urgent and critical care – but there will inevitably be some disruption for patients.”