“You just are paid too much”….if only I could earn a penny the number of times I have heard this nowadays, sometimes in jest, sometimes with a degree of malice..I would perhaps genuinely be able to live the lifestyle all these folks think I actually do. But its' come to pass..Consultant salaries are now fair game. We get paid "too much"- a common refrain…the more the financial belts tighten, the more the mind has got focussed, the more the rhetoric has been drummed. The Consultant salary suddenly seems to have become the lightening rod to criticise, to target. The one to be responsible for the financial woes of the NHS.
It’s an interesting argument..in an NHS where a significant portion of cost is behind salary and Consultant salaries are one of the highest, you perhaps can see the argument. The problem however is that it’s an agreed national contract and payment is per that. Cynics would say that the contract was “wrong”,”too much was paid”…problem is we are where we are and any attempt to break out of that (have a look at the “South West Cartel” trying to break away from national contracts) have so far bitten the dust.What's ahead? No body knows.
So what about it? Are we actually paid too much? Well, the problem as ever is not cut and dry. A vast majority of Consultants argument has been that if we actually stuck to the contract, the NHS would have been far worse off. Lets take my example- I get paid to work 44 hours per week. Factor in the weekends and on call work- and during a working week, I am actually supposed to work for 38 hours. Simply put, that’s a 9-5 job Monday to Thursday and job on Friday..yep, an early finish on a Friday indeed. Problem is I have clocked myself doing,over 3 consecutive weeks, 54; 62 and then 54 hours…free service to the NHS on an average 10-12 hours per week. I would LOVE to do a 9-5 job 4 days a week and an early finish on Friday…its just that my job doesn't allow that. Ah..but I have also heard that I am not an "average Consultant” (whatever that means)…again we have a problem. Actually the majority of people I know actually do that, if not more…issue is I am vocal about it, the majority does get on with it, shrug their shoulders at the jibes and carry on with a cynical, albeit rueful smile.
However,as ever, and as with anything else, we have our bad apples too. I have also sat with folks who feel they are being paid "peanuts". Seriously?! A six figure salary on a public taxation system and that’s peanuts? No sir, you just need to cut your cloth according to your demand…stop aspiring to drive a Bugati..you are not a Rock star .you are a doctor. In this present climate, be very careful of statements like that...Bob Diamond once said he wasn't paid enough..the rest is history.
I will be honest- I get paid well but believe I work and earn every single penny of it too. At no point of time will I say I am not getting paid enough…issue is those individuals who spout the nonsense of "not enough pay" taint the rest of us…make us the “Bankers of the NHS”..the fat greedy ones.
And then there’s the ones who clearly are working less than what they are paid for…the ones who claim they are “teaching”..while simultaneously doing their private work. A tiny dishonest minority who mar the reputation of all, damage the credential of the “hard working Consultant”. A tiny minority who need to be challenged and frankly asked why they want to continue working for the NHS or indeed at the same salary. THAT is the job of management..find them, challenge them..and indeed they do not deserve their salary. But please do not use a broad brush to say the majority do so. I would be first in that line to challenge them- and would be keen to make sure such folks who do mar the reputation of the average hard working Consultant is actually shown the door. Want to earn more privately? Go forth and prosper...just don't do it at the same time you are being paid on a public taxation system, eh?
To any trainees in medicine and folks who are new to the job.. and is reading this….a personal appeal. Don’t ever be sucked into the mindset that the salary isn't enough..it is…just make sure you earn every bit of it. Take the title away, take the pizazz away, take the accolades away…remember you went to medical school…to help get others better.
Don't cheat the system..we are the new generation who can redefine the reputation of a Consultant..so lets go ahead and do it. Just stick to those principles…and no longer you will be a lightening rod for critics who look at your salary with envy…but will be someone who will be respected for what you do.
Trust me..been doing this for 4 years now…it has been a privilege to be able to serve.
And oh yes, do it with a smile on your face. It's worth every single minute (or penny) of it.