Junior doctors strike: Majority of public support doctors ahead of first full walkout, poll shows

Junior doctors begin an all-out strike from 8am on Tuesday, and will resume the strike on Wednesday

Samuel Osborne,Adam Withnall
Tuesday 26 April 2016 12:56

The majority of the public supports the junior doctors' strike, a poll has found.

The Ipsos MORI poll, conducted for BBC News, found 57 per cent of adults in England support the strike.

Junior doctors began an all-out strike from 8am on Tuesday, and will resume the walk-out on Wednesday.

The strike has already resulted in the cancellation of 125,000 operations and appointments.

As the strike got underway, there was an outpouring of support for the doctors across social media, while an informal poll on Sky News showed viewers backed the action by more than 70 per cent.

And the overwhelming opposition to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt over the issue appears to have prompted him to tell the BBC it will be his "last big job in government".

The survey of 861 English adults also found public support for an all-out strike, where no emergency care being provided, is higher than was initially suggested when the same question was asked in January.

While 57 per cent support the current walkout, just 44 per cent said they would when asked in January.

However, support for this round of strike action is slightly lower than for previous strikes, when emergency care was not affected.

Junior doctors strike - all you need to know

Nearly one in five (18 per cent) strongly oppose the full walkout.

An increasing number of people see both parties at fault for the continuing dispute, with over a third (35 per cent) blaming the doctors and the Government, up from 28 per cent in March and 18 per cent in February.

Over half (54 per cent) now say the Government is more at fault for the dispute continuing this long, down from 57 per cent in March.

The number saying the junior doctors are more at fault has also fallen to 8 per cent from 11 per cent in March.

On Sunday, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt refused to trial an alternative contract in exchange for cancelling the strike.

Jeremy Hunt is also facing a legal challenge from the British Medical Association over the contracts

The Government says the contract will help implement the Conservatives' manifesto pledge of a "seven-day NHS".

Junior doctors say the new contract - which redefines what are considered "anti-social" working hours - is unsafe for patients, as doctors will have to work more unsocial hours.

The dispute has become increasingly bitter and has seen junior doctors go out on strike for the first time in 40 years.

Mr Hunt has also been criticised by the director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), who says the contract contradicts the status of women set out by the United Nations.

Commenting on the poll's findings, Anna Quigley, Head of Health Research at Ipsos MORI, said: “We’re seeing today that support for the junior doctors is still prevalent among much of the public, even when emergency care is withheld.

"However, support is not as high as when we were polling for the strikes where emergency care was provided, as we suggested might happen in January.

"However, the erosion of public support has not been as stark as the January polling suggested, and the public still have some patience left for the junior doctors’ cause.”

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