Opposition to doctor strike

June 07, 2012, 12:09 PM GMT+0

62% Brits oppose doctor strike plans, 28% support; 40% say current doctor pensions 'about right'

Over sixty per cent of the British public oppose British doctors' plans to strike, our poll shows, although almost a third are in support of their aims, and the public generally is split over whether doctors should be allowed to strike at all.

Doctors have voted to take industrial action for the first time since 1975 in protest at the Government's planned shakeup of their pensions.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has said ballots produced an overall majority in favour of strike action which is to take place on the 21st June - postponing all non-urgent work, such as outpatient appointments, in the process.

  • 62% oppose doctors taking industrial action due to pension charges
  • Over a quarter (28%) support the BMA’s decision to strike
  • Just under half say that doctors should not have the right to strike (48%)
  • Compared to a similar 44% who say doctors should be allowed to strike

The BMA has announced they will be taking industrial action after the Government's recent introduction of changes to the Health and Services Act – which critics say will involve doctors working for longer with higher contributions for a smaller pension. The BMA are indignant after negotiating with the Government in 2008 to produce a major reform of the NHS scheme that was, at the time, reportedly deemed fair and sustainable.

Should doctors' pensions be lowered?

From a strictly financial point of view, a strong majority of Britons believe that doctors are paid well, while one third of Brits feel the current pensions received by doctors are too high. Meanwhile, very few Britons currently believe that doctors' pensions are too low.

  • 92% of the British public feel that, generally speaking, doctors are well paid (33% fairly well paid, 59% very well paid)
  • Only 4% feel doctors are badly paid
  • While 40% feel the pensions doctors currently receive are about right
  • 33% feel that the pensions doctors receive are too high
  • And just 4% say the pensions doctors receive are too low

The vote to strike has been met with intense confrontation from ministers, who have given little ground to the BMA's position.

‘Damaging high esteem' of profession?

Critics of the strike have accused members of health unions of greed, and labelled their plans negligent ‒ putting patients' safety at risk for better rewards in an already lucrative position.

Writing in the Guardian, Dr. Dan Poulter, a part-time physician and Tory MP, has claimed that there can be no justification for a doctor striking; that the average doctor will still claim a pension that others could only 'dream of', and that the decision to strike will win them little public sympathy or support.

“It is time that the BMA woke up to reality and realised that its actions will damage the high esteem in which medical professionals are held, while harming the very people it is meant to help,” he said.

However, BMA Chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum denied patients would suffer, insisting that despite disruptions, doctors will ensure patient safety is protected during strikes, with doctors will continue to provide all urgent and emergency care.

Meldrum also described the strike action as a last resort, saying they were proceeding 'very reluctantly', with the BMA actually in theory preferring to negotiate a fairer solution. “This clear mandate for action reflects just how let-down doctors feel by the Government’s unwillingness to find a fairer approach to the pension changes,” he has said.

However, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has so far refused to give in to complaints, stating that the deal on offer is not negotiable.

See the survey details and full results (page 13)