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Germany’s Response to COVID-19: What Lessons Can the UK Learn?

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A comparison of frontline salaries reveals huge failures in NHS investment. This study ranks 36 countries in the OECD according to how much they pay their frontline healthcare workers, with Germany far outperforming 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 reveal huge disparities in healthcare investment between some of the world’s richest countries.

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, which stands at £3,357 per capita.  In comparison, Germany ranks fourth, with healthcare spending at £4,791 per capita. This huge disparity indicates the amount of investment needed to execute a prepared and proactive response to the current pandemic, and how far the UK falls short.

Hospital nurses in Germany earn £4,663 more annually than nurses in the UK, and emergency physicians earn  £1,228 more – but this doesn’t take overtime hours into account. 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 [1].

COVID -19 has no doubt led to a surge in these figures this year. 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 and Germany. All salaries have been converted to Purchasing Power Parity:

Rank
Country
Salary

General Practitioner

Salary

Hospital Nurse

Salary

Emergency Physicians

5
Germany
£147,950
£44,944
£160,817
13
UK
£128,849
£40,281
£159,590

 

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:

Rank
Country
Salary

General Practitioner

Salary

Hospital Nurse

Salary

Emergency Physicians

1
Luxembourg
£213,474
£73,285
£204,541
2
Turkey
£150,533
£89,218
£195,741
3
Norway
£145,351
£57,788
£176,617
4
Australia
£135,772
£55,543
£169,017
5
Germany
£147,950
£44,944
£160,817
6
Iceland
£123,706
£56,984
£154,997
7
Canada
£134,588
£44,430
£169,906
8
United States
£164,238
£51,175
£122,706
9
Japan
£148,763
£29,883
£184,806
10
Ireland
£130,971
£46,510

£162,796

Further findings:

  • Germany ranks fifth overall, behind Luxembourg, Turkey, Norway and Australia.
  • Austria ranks behind Germany, but ahead of the United Kingdom. Hospital nurses and emergency physicians earn more in Austria than they do in the UK.
  • Spain ranks 29th overall, behind the UK and far behind Germany. General practitioners in Spain earn an average salary of £63,591, less than half the average annual salary of GPs in the UK and 2.3 times less than those in Germany.
  • The United States ranks eighth overall, ahead of the UK. However, when ranked for the average salary of emergency physicians the US drops to 24th place.
  • France ranks behind the UK in 22nd place overall. Hospital nurses are paid 21% less in France than they are in the UK.
  • Luxembourg ranks first in the OECD. Hospital nurses in Luxembourg receive an average salary of £73,300, compared to £40,200 in the UK.
  • 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.

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