Distressing new data compiled by the healthcare industry think tank Nuffield Trust shows that doctors of color working for the UK's National Health Service (NHS) receive lower salaries than their white peers.
The investigation, published in the British Medical Journal, was initiated in response to British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s pledge to eliminate the pernicious institutionalized gender pay gap among NHS workers.
Under a new UK law enacted in 2017, companies with more than 250 employees are required to publicly report differences in pay between their male and female staff each year; this includes public sector organizations such as the NHS, schools, and the armed forces. In April, the first wave of annual reports were submitted, leading to many unsurprising yet nevertheless disappointing revelations about women's compensation.
In the year since this policy was introduced, many economists and equality watchdog organizations have called for an expansion that would make ethnic pay gap reporting mandatory as well, but this has yet to occur.
To determine the current state of the ethnic pay gap at the NHS, author John Appleby examined wage information from the NHS Electronic Staff Record for the month of December 2017.
His analysis shows that the gap in median basic pay between black and minority ethnic (BME) and white doctors is small – ranging from zero to 1 percent – for nearly all physician job grades and types, including foundation doctors (equivalent to an intern in the US) and specialists.
However, the salaries for consultants – senior specialist physicians who have landed a top post in their department – showed a significantly wider gulf. Black and minority consultants made 4.9 percent less in median basic pay than white consultants, which, according to Appleby, corresponds to a difference of £387 ($490) for the month examined and a yearly difference in salary of about £4,644 ($6,006).
“It is one thing to identify pay gaps between staff, another to explain them,” he wrote. “Part of the explanation may be differences in the age profile of white and BME consultants. As [the data] shows, white consultants tend to be older, and if age is taken as a proxy for experience, and experience is positively linked to remuneration, then we would expect to see some difference in pay.”
“However, there will be other explanations too – some warranted, others not so much. These, as with the gender pay gap, are worth investigating further.”
Recent surveys conducted in the United States reveal that ethnic and gender pay gaps persist among US medical professionals as well. Using responses from more than 20,000 doctors, the 2018 Physician Compensation Report determined that all non-white minorities consistently made less than whites. Black doctors experienced the most significant discrepancy: about $50,000 less per year than Caucasians, but the situation is even more troubling for black female doctors, who make nearly $100,000 less, on average, than their black male colleagues.