One of the “must read” sections of Independent Practitioner Today, a business magazine aimed at doctors with a private practice, is “Profits Focus”. Profits Focus is put together by Ray Stanbridge who runs an accountancy, and tax advisory service and Martin Murray, a partner at Sandisson Easson & Co, a medical accountants.

Each month they look at one of the private consultant specialties and work out what a typical consultant earns from private practice and what profit they are making, after they have covered the costs of consulting rooms, practice management costs and so on.

It’s a fascinating insight into the earnings of private consultants. Bear in mind that most private consultants are also NHS employees, so their private income could be viewed as what they earn from their part time job.

What does an NHS consultant earn?

But first...any idea what consultants get paid in the NHS? Here’s the basis for NHS consultant salaries for 2011/12. There are several elements to an NHS consultant salary:

  • Base salary: This depends on the number of years of experience. A new consultant is paid £74,504; A consultant with 9 years experience receives £89,370 pa; A consultant with 19 plus years experience receives £ 100,446 pa.
  • Clinical excellence awards: Basic salary is supplemented according to levels of clinical excellence. Clinical Excellence Awards are meant to reward consultants who perform over and above the standard expected of their role - consultants who can demonstrate that they’re delivering safe, high quality services:
    • A Level 1 Award warrants an additional £2,957pa;
    • A Level 5 Award warrants an additional £14,785pa;
    • A Level 9 Bronze Award warrants an additional £35,484;
    • A Level 12 Platinum Award warrants an additional £75,796 pa.

Around 30 consultants earn the top level Platinum award each year. Around 350 consultants earn the Bronze award each year.

According to the NHS Information Centre, NHS Staff Earnings report (January - March 2011), the average NHS consultant salary (under the new NHS contract) is £117,700 pa. (There are around 35,000 consultants working in the NHS.)

How do NHS consultant earnings compare with private consultant earnings?

So, a consultant earns £117,700 pa in the NHS. What does he or she earn from his private practice? Or...if you’re planning to direct your son or daughter towards a medical career, which specialty has the best chance of paying for a comfortable retirement for Mum and Dad...?

Here’s your answer, based on my analysis of the monthly specialty reviews published in Independent Practitioner Today:


Fee income


Orthopaedic Surgeons



General Surgeons















ENT Surgeons












Source: Independent Practitioner Today. Fee income and net profit for 2008, by specialty.

So, if your son or daughter is headed off for medical school this Autumn, make sure you send them off with a copy of the Oxford Textbook of Trauma and Orthopaedics (£237.50 from Amazon). You won’t regret the investment.


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About the author

Keith Pollard is Executive chairman of LaingBuisson International Limited, an online publisher in the healthcare sector that operates market-leading web portals such as Private Healthcare UK and LaingBuisson International Limited is also active in the online medical travel sector through Treatment Abroad, International Medical Travel Journal and DoctorInternet, the Arabic medical tourism portal. View for my full profile.

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