Most people oppose an open-ended withdrawal of labour by junior doctors – but a majority now blame the government for the ongoing contract dispute
Leaked emails sent last week by the chair of the British Medical Association, the doctors union, revealed that an indefinite junior doctors strike was among the options that may be considered if this week's all-out strikes do not force Jeremy Hunt to re-open talks over the imposed new contract. Other options laid out included trainee medic resignations, junior doctors switching jobs and "alternative forms of permanent action". Recently released figures showed 78% of junior doctors due in work did not show up yesterday, as they withdrew both routine and emergency care for the first time in NHS history.
New YouGov research for the Times reveals strong opposition to the idea of an indefinite walk-out by junior doctors. 59% say this would be the wrong thing to do, while 23% say it would be right. 39% of Labour voters say open-ended strikes would be right, while 44% say they would be wrong.
The public have been highly supportive of the ongoing wave of junior doctors strikes compared to industrial action in other sectors and the 2012 doctors strike over pensions, which was opposed by 62%. The majority of British people have supported junior doctors striking over the proposed new contract in four out of five YouGov polls on the issue.
And there is an increasing tendency to blame the government over the dispute. A majority (52%) now say the government is mostly to blame for the row over the contract (up from 48% in March and 45% in February).
When asked if it is right or wrong for junior doctors to withdraw labour from emergency care as well as routine services, however, support falls to 43% while 38% are opposed.
But there has been an increase in support for doctors refusing to sign the imposed contract (34%, up from 29% in February)
Early reports claim hospitals coped well with yesterday's all-out strike, with some hospitals saying they were quieter than usual. No hospitals triggered the emergency procedure which would have allowed them to call back striking junior doctors, however there remain fears that demand could surge once the doctors back at work. Yesterday we found the public evenly divided over whether services were likely to be less safe than usual (45%) or as safe as usual given the contingency plan in place (43%).