• More of the public support junior doctors’ strike action than oppose it
  • However, the proportion supporting it drops substantially - to less than 50 per cent - if they withdraw emergency care
  • Tuesday’s strike action affects only planned care, but a full withdrawal is planned for 10 February
  • See the full results of the survey

Less than half the public would support junior doctors’ strike action when it includes withdrawing emergency care work, according to exclusive Ipsos Mori polling for HSJ

The poll found that as long as their strike is confined to planned care – as is the case tomorrow – 66 per cent of the public support the junior doctors’ action. Sixteen per cent said they opposed action even with emergency care being provided, with the remainder saying they neither supported nor opposed.

However, when asked whether they backed action including withdrawal of emergency care work, support dropped to 44 per cent of the public. This was still larger than the proportion who said they opposed such action, which was 39 per cent.

 

The first two strikes scheduled by the British Medical Associations – planned for 24 hours starting at 8am on Tuesday and 48 hours from 8am on 26 January – will see them providing only emergency care.

However, a third planned day of action – scheduled for 8am-5pm on 10 February – includes withdrawing labour from emergency care.

 

Ipsos Mori’s results show this final planned day strike enjoys considerably less support from the public, although more still support than oppose.

The overall proportions supporting and opposing action masks a large drop in the number who said they would “strongly support” action including suspending emergency work – from 41 per cent who strongly support action on planned care only, to 24 per cent. Those who would “tend to support” action falls by a comparatively mild 5 percentage points, from 25 per cent to 20 per cent.

The proportions of those who “strongly oppose” and “tend to oppose” both more than double when emergency care provision is factored in, going to 22 per cent and 17 per cent respectively.

Ipsos Mori polled 869 members of the public at the weekend, having developed questions with HSJ. The Ipsos Mori/HSJ findings are due to be covered on this evening’s Newsnight on BBC Two at 10.30pm.

The pollsters asked: “As you may be aware junior doctors are planning strike action in England. If they go on strike, would you support or oppose junior doctors striking if they still provided emergency care?”

The second question asked: “And would you support or oppose junior doctors striking if they did not provide emergency care? Emergency care from other staff would still be available.”

The pollsters also asked: “Why do you think junior doctors are planning to strike?”

The results show nearly two-thirds of the public (64 per cent) cited working conditions, most prominently long hours.

Unsociable hours in the evenings and at weekends were mentioned by just 16 per cent of respondents.

Pay was mentioned by 60 per cent of respondents, although the results showed only a limited knowledge of proposed changes to overtime pay.

Arguments that the strikes are politically motivated command little sway, with only 4 per cent of respondents mentioning that.

Just 2 per cent of those surveyed thought the “safety of patients [being] at risk” was a factor in the strike.

The last junior doctors strike was in 1975. 

The Ipsos Mori/HSJ findings are due to be covered on this evening’s Newsnight on BBC Two at 10.30pm.

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