Ahead of a wage strike, junior doctor leaders launched an advertising campaign saying they could earn more by serving coffee.
Members of the British Medical Association in England will launch a three-day strike Monday after a major vote for industrial action.
According to the BMA, newly qualified medical workers earn £14.09 an hour – less than a barista in a cafe.
The union said young doctors in England have suffered a 26% real pay cut since 2008/09.
Speaking on the launch of the campaign on Sunday, the BMA said: “Pret a Manger has announced it will pay up to £14.10 an hour. A resident earns just £14.09.
“Thanks to this government, you can serve more coffee than save patients. This week junior doctors will be on strike to be paid what they are worth.”
dr Becky Bates, a first-year resident in the Midlands, said: “I thought as a doctor I would be able to achieve financial independence, but instead I’m still completely dependent on others.
“With tuition loans, credit cards and personal loans, I left medical school with over £100,000 in debt and now my salary isn’t even enough to fix my car if something goes wrong.
“I’ve often just driven around during the day because my lights aren’t working properly.
“I come from a single-parent family. I don’t come from money, but at 28 I’m relying on my mom to take on credit card debt to help me cover those expenses. It’s humiliating for me and it’s not fair to her.
“Looking ahead, I need to move to another hospital in another city as part of my education, but I have no idea how to fund that if I have to move. I can’t even afford to pay for the exams I need to advance in my career.
“As an intern I can be responsible for 400+ patients overnight – assessing them, prescribing medication, having really difficult conversations with families about end-of-life care and being the first point of contact when something goes horribly wrong. Yet our abilities and responsibilities are completely devalued.
“My situation is far from unique and as such, I and the overwhelming majority of my colleagues have been forced to go on the picket line this week.”
dr Robert Laurenson and Dr. Vivek Trivedi, co-chair of BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee, said: “Is £14.09 an hour really worth all junior doctors? These are people who can provide life-saving care, have undergone intensive training in medical school and are in debt worth around £100,000 in the process.
“We are fully in favor of every worker getting a pay rise in line with inflation, and it’s worth reflecting on the fact that the government has slashed trainee doctor’s salaries so severely that they could be making more by serving coffee.
“Is it surprising that young doctors are looking for jobs abroad or in other fields when the government tells 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 have reached record highs means patients will suffer even more than they already are.
“That’s why the doctors are on strike.
“We are fighting to restore our wages. We fight to restore our value. We are fighting to restore our workforce to get the NHS back to being an effective healthcare system.”
Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said: “It is incredibly disappointing that the British Medical Association (BMA) has rejected my offer to enter into formal salary negotiations on the condition that strikes are suspended.
“I appreciate the hard work of junior doctors and call on unions to come to the negotiating table and call off strikes that are jeopardizing patient safety and hampering efforts to tackle the backlog. I want to find a fair solution that recognizes the crucial role of junior doctors and the wider economic pressures the UK is facing.
“I have had constructive and meaningful talks with unions representing nurses, paramedics and other non-medical workers who have agreed to call off the strikes and negotiations continue this week.
“We have worked closely with NHS England on contingency plans to protect patient safety during strikes, prioritizing emergency, emergency and critical care – but there will inevitably be disruption to patients.”