The cost of living crisis is affecting most people in the UK, and doctors are no exception. This is especially true for junior doctors, many of whom have not had the chance to build up a financial safety net.
What is the cost of living crisis?
The major factors in the cost of living crisis are high inflation and low wage growth. This has left people worse off, as the price of essentials (such as food and energy) increases rapidly, while people’s income does not increase to match.
How is the cost of living crisis affecting doctors?
A recent BMA survey warned that in 2022, nearly half of junior doctors struggled to afford their rent or mortgage, and half had difficulty paying their energy bills.
Junior doctors also worked more to boost their pay, with over two-thirds of those surveyed saying they had done extra shifts on top of their standard contracts. This is particularly worrying given that burnout is already rife in the medical profession.
Worries about money can also have a real impact on your mental health. With many doctors working long hours, and encountering stressful situations daily, one additional source of stress can make things really difficult.
What support is available for doctors?
The RMBF may be able to provide financial help for doctors who are struggling to support themselves or their family due to illness, injury, bereavement, or the impact of the Covid pandemic.
The help provided can include essential day-to-day living costs like energy bills, mortgage payments, childcare, and grocery costs.
We also provide money advice for our beneficiaries, which can help doctors manage debt, and claim benefits they are entitled to – many doctors are surprised to find they are eligible for certain types of support.
Other charities and organisations also offer financial help and other types of support tailored to doctors, including BMA Charities, the Cameron Fund, SAMF and the Royal Medical Foundation. You can find a longer list on our Supporting Organisations page.
Discounts and shopping
The NHS England website has an excellent list of shops and services that provide NHS discounts. You may be familiar with the Blue Light card, but there are lots of other schemes – it’s worth checking over the list to ensure you are getting the most from your money.
It’s important to check with your employer whether they can offer support. NHS Trusts are being encouraged to consider as many ways as possible to support their employees.
It will vary depending on the organisation you work for, but this support might include:
- Accommodation and rent subsidies
- Subsidised childcare
- Transport season ticket loans
- Cycle to work scheme
- Free or subsidised meals on site
- Free sanitary products
- Saving schemes
- Financial education
- Credit union membership
- Debt management support
If you’re currently receiving government income support – for example, Universal Credit or Child Tax Credit – then you are very likely to be eligible for a Cost of Living Support payment in April or May 2023. The Money Saving Expert website has more details of how this is paid – if you are eligible, it should come directly to you, and you don’t need to apply.
The government has also extended the Energy Price Guarantee, which caps the amount energy companies can charge per unit. This will now be in place until the end of June 2023.
There are also regulations in place that can help. If you are still struggling to pay your energy bills, your energy supplier has an obligation to help you if you contact them – for example, by negotiating a more affordable payment plan.
If you are at risk of falling into mortgage arrears, you can also talk to your mortgage lender. They may be able to offer options such as switching temporarily to an interest-only mortgage, taking a break from repayments, or extending the term of your mortgage. These can increase the lifetime amount you pay, so should be considered a temporary option.
Where else can I find advice?
Money Saving Expert, Money Helper and Citizens Advice are very useful resources, with many guides around making your money go further, discounts and offers, and comparisons between suppliers (e.g. for cheapest broadband offers).
Medics Money provides money advice specific to doctors, including how to claim tax rebates on career and training costs (e.g. GMC fees, BMA fees, Royal college fees and examination expenses), and how to ensure your tax code is correct so you are not overpaying tax.