Counting money

The UK Ranks Behind the US for Salaries Paid to Healthcare Workers

Doctors and nurses in the United Kingdom and worldwide are the heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic, but are they paid accordingly? This study ranks the 36 countries in the OECD according to how much they pay their frontline healthcare workers.

  • The UK is the fifth richest country in the world but ranks 13th for salaries paid to healthcare workers
  • Nurses in Turkey are paid more than double that of nurses in the UK
  • Luxembourg has the highest-paid healthcare workers in the OECD. General practitioners in Luxembourg earn £213,000, compared to £128,000 in the UK

A study has been released by the digital health platform, Qunomedical, that ranks the average salaries of healthcare workers across the OECD.

While praise of workers tackling COVID-19 from the frontline is encouraging –  it is not a substitute for fair pay. These findings aim to highlight the countries paying their frontline medical workers according to the crucial role they play in keeping society healthy.

The study identified three types of medical professionals on the frontline of the COVID – 19 crisis: general practitioners (GP), nurses, and emergency physicians, and uncovered their salaries across the 36 countries in the OECD. These salaries were then converted to Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) to allow for comparison between countries.

The UK ranks 18th in the OECD for expenditure on healthcare per capita, with 9.8% of its GDP invested in the NHS. This is significantly less than the United States, which invests 16.9% of its GDP in its healthcare system.

The UK ranks behind the US overall in eighth place, with GPs earning almost £40,000 more in the US. In Europe, nurses in the UK may earn more than those in Switzerland, Finland and Portugal when taking PPP into account, but, this does not account for overtime hours.

In 2019, 3.5% of NHS staff reported more than 11 hours of unpaid weekly overtime, and a staggering 43% reported up to 5 hours. COVID -19 has no doubt led to a surge in these figures in 2020. The UK is currently the fifth-largest economy in the world. It’s ranking in this index raises vital questions about the value it places on its most crucial form of labour and the workers that sustain it.

Table 1: The salaries of healthcare workers in the UK. All salaries have been converted to Purchasing Power Parity:

RankCountryGeneral PractitionerHospital NurseEmergency Physicians

Table 2: The salaries of the 10 countries in the OECD with the highest-paid healthcare workers. All salaries have been converted to Purchasing Power Parity:

RankCountryGeneral PractitionerHospital NurseEmergency Physicians

The full list of all 36 countries is available at

Further findings:

  • The US ranks eighth overall. However, when ranked for the average salary of emergency physicians the US drops to 24th place, while the UK jumps to 11th place.
  • The US ranks second for the salaries of GPs. GPs in the US earn £164,238, compared to £128, 848 in the UK.
  • France ranks behind the UK in 22nd place overall. Hospital nurses are paid 21% less in France than they are in the UK.
  • Spain ranks 29th overall behind the UK. GPs in Spain earn an average salary of £63,591, less than half the average annual salary of GPs in the UK.
  • Germany ranks fifth overall, behind Luxembourg, Turkey, Norway and Australia.
  • Turkey ranks first for the salaries of hospital nurses and Latvia ranks first for the salaries of emergency physicians.
  • Lithuania ranks last in the OECD for the average salaries of healthcare professionals. GPs in the UK are paid over fifteen times more than GPs in Lithuania.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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