The Hunt Effect

Public attitudes towards the Junior Doctor contract

Despite the recent controversy over the proposals, 41% say that they agree with the Government’s plans to change the contract for junior doctors, while 29% disagree with them.

This narrow support for the Government’s proposals does not necessarily mean that the public does not sympathise with the arguments from Junior Doctors. Two in five (41%) think that the planned strike by junior doctors is justified, compared to 26% who think it is unjustified, with reasons for supporting the strike including:

• Junior doctors should be treated fairly
• Longer hours will put patients at risk by over-tiring doctors
• Junior doctors have the right to voice their opinions

The Hunt Effect

What might appear like two contradictory stances make more sense when you consider how pervasive and widespread the Department of Health’s comments over the safety of the NHS at weekends has been. Our results show that public belief in a different NHS service at weekends is quite widespread.

Just over half (52%) think that GPs do not work at weekends, and a third (34%) believe that A&E is the only department open at weekends. With 35% having avoided seeking medical help or advice at the weekend and choosing to wait until a weekday or not seek help or advice at all, it is perhaps no surprise that there is support for some change in NHS working practices.

It is clear, however, that such support for a 7-day NHS is driven by a perceived lack of available services rather than by a lack of dedication by staff. Although two fifths (41%) think that the quality of care in hospital is different at the weekend, the same proportion still believe that the NHS work just as hard on the weekend. With relatively high levels of confidence in the hard work of the profession despite this understanding of NHS working practices, it becomes clearer how the public can support contract changes but also believe that a strike in opposition to them is justified.

Even if the public’s attitude is still relatively balanced at the moment, many anticipate trouble ahead with half (49%) expecting that changes in working hours will lead to a brain drain of NHS staff going abroad to work. Whether a backlash further down the road affects support for the Health Secretary’s proposals is still to be seen.

Read more about in this article from the Observer.

The Hunt Effect

Opinium Research carried out an online survey of 2,002 GB adults from 13th to 16th October 2015. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria