An exclusive BMG poll, commissioned by the Evening Standard, reveals that over half of the British public are in favour of the junior doctor strikes, with most supporting a second planned strike.
On January 12th 2016, thousands of junior doctors walked out in dispute over new contracts proposed by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, leaving thousands of planned operations postponed.
Subsequently, BMG asked the British public, in light of these strikes, if junior doctors were right or wrong to do so last month. The results revealed that 57% think junior doctors were “right to strike”; 32% said they were “wrong to strike” and 11% don’t know.
Those who trust the government were more likely to oppose the strikes with 43% saying doctors were “right to strike”, whilst 49% said doctors were wrong to do so and 8% don’t know. Conversely, those who distrust the government tend to support the strikes with 70% saying they were right to strike and 22% saying they were wrong to strike (8% don’t know).
With another junior doctor strike confirmed to go ahead next week on February 10th, our poll found that 48% of Britons would support another strike; whilst 39% said they would not (13% don’t know). A closer look at the data reveals that those who trust the government are predominantly against further strikes, whereas those who distrust the government are mostly in favour. The poll also found that Conservative supporters tend to be against junior doctors striking whereas Labour supporters are in favour.
Though there is wide support for the government’s aim, the findings suggest there is broad disproval of how the government has handled the dispute. While two thirds of the public think the government is right to establish a seven-day NHS service (15% say the government is wrong to and 19% don’t know), 58% say the government are wrong to threaten to impose a new contract on junior doctors if they do not agree to proposed changes (20% say they are right to and 22% don’t know).
However, when we examine the results more closely, it seems as though the public are split in their views on whether the proposed changes to doctors’ contracts will in fact improve or worsen the service the NHS currently provides. 30% say the changes will improve services, whilst 35% believe the changes will worsen them. It is perhaps more telling that 34% said they didn’t know, suggesting that many people do not feel in full possession of the facts with regard to the proposed changes.
Our Research Director, Dr Michael Turner, said “The public are clear, they want a 7-day NHS, but think the government are implementing these changes poorly.
Interestingly, it is those most familiar with NHS services who are most likely to say that they believe the figures on weekend deaths that the Government claims; specifically women (46%) and those aged 65+ (47%).
Though at face value there appears to be public consensus on the planned strike action by doctors, digging a little deeper into the data reveals a clear political divide. Conservative and Lib Dem supporters are strongly against further action, whilst Labour and UKIP supporters are strongly in favour.
It seems as though these results are yet another prism through which to judge the government. Those who trust government tend to support Mr Hunt’s plans, whereas those who distrust government remain more sceptical.”
Over the last few months, BMG have also polled the levels of trust the British public have in doctors. The results reveal that trust in doctors has increased 4 points on the BMG Trust Index since December, to 82. This is compared to an average score of just 30 for politicians, down 1 point on the index over the same period.
Dr Michael Turner said “As the debate continues, the government may be surprised to learn that doctors have suffered no reputational damage as a result. Trust in doctors remains strong, up 4 points in BMG’s Trust Index since December (Dec 2015 = 78pts / Jan2016 = 82pts). A bitter pill to swallow for politicians who are down 1, on a lowly 30 (Dec 2015 = 31pts / Jan2016 = 30pts).”
An article based on these polling results, released by the Evening Standard, can be found here.
Data tables containing a breakdown of the results can be found here.
Data tables containing a breakdown of the BMG trust index can be found here.
For further details about this poll, and any other results from our polling series, please feel free to get in touch by email or phone.
Lauren Harris – Research Executive
0121 333 6006