British public supports all-out strike by junior doctors, survey reveals

And nearly two-thirds of people support a partial strike

Matt Broomfield
Tuesday 05 April 2016 11:52 BST
Junior doctors say Jeremy Hunt's contract will endanger patients' lives
Junior doctors say Jeremy Hunt's contract will endanger patients' lives (John Phillips/Getty Images)

Nearly half of the British public supports the planned all-out strike by junior doctors, according to a new YouGov survey.

The survey found 45 per cent backed a full strike, with 38 per cent opposing it. A further 15 per cent of people surveyed were either neutral or unable to answer.

A full withdrawal of labour by all junior doctors is planned between the hours of 8am and 5pm on 26 and 27 April, which will be the first time in the NHS's history that they will refuse to provide emergency cover. Consultants and other medical staff will still be working during the strike.

YouGov found the junior doctors' action was particularly popular among Labour voters and Scottish people, with 70 per cent and 61 per cent respectively of these groups backing a full strike.

When asked who they thought was to blame for the dispute between the British Medical Association and the Government, 45 per cent of people said they blamed the Department of Health, with only 12 per cent pointing the finger at the BMA. A further 30 per cent said the blame was equally shared.

Partial strike action, with staff covering for emergencies, is also planned to run from tomorrow until Friday. According to YouGov, 59 per cent of people support this form of industrial action, compared with only 23 per cent who oppose it.

Junior doctors have been angered by the Government's attempts to introduce a new contract as part of plans to make the NHS a comprehensive seven-day operation. They say the new contract will lead to a cut in pay and an increase in working hours, endangering patients.

This week, the Government's own review of the contract said it would "impact disproprotionately" on women's pay, but described this as a "comfortably justified" means to an end.

Writing for The Independent, cardiologist Dr Rachel Clarke said: "The Department of Health hasn’t even tried to hide the discrimination at the heart of its new contract.

“In other words, for [David] Cameron, the alleged champion of women, women’s salaries are mere collateral damage.”

Pollsters had previously warned that withdrawing emergency care could damage the junior doctors' cause. Anna Quigley, of pollsters Ipsos MORI, told The Independent: "if emergency care is not provided during strikes, the public is much less likely to support them."

However, YouGov's new findings suggest that the public will continue to support the British Medical Association's attempts to secure a more reasonable contract.

Johann Malawana, chair of the BMA's Junior Doctors Committee, said: "We deeply regret the disruption this will cause and this is not a decision we have taken lightly.

"Junior doctors have no other choice - the new contract is unfair and would be bad for the delivery of care, and the NHS, in the long term.”

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