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2 July 2012
The day of the strike has come and gone and it felt a lot like just another day at the office. In his recent article ‘We’re too weak to strike’ (BMJ 2012; 344), Kinesh Patel raised the question ‘did the public even notice on the 21st June’. On the day of the BMA industrial action I surveyed 118 inpatients in both general medical and surgical wards in a large district general hospital. Patients in care of the elderly and acute surgical and acute medical wards were not included.
Patients were asked:
1) Did you know doctors were taking industrial action today?
2) Do you know why doctors are taking industrial action?
3) Do you agree with doctors taking industrial action?
4) Has your care been affected by doctors taking industrial action?
Despite the BMA mounting a PR campaign, a quarter of patients (28%) were unaware that the strike was happening that day and more than a third (37%) didn’t know the reason why it was being taken. The majority of patients (67%) supported doctors taking industrial action against pension reforms, but 30% did not, and 3% were undecided. An overwhelming majority (94%) felt that their care was unaffected by the strike. Six percent felt that their care was affected but declined to comment in detail.
Many doctors are understandably extremely concerned about public perception over the strike and fear it may damage their relationship with patients. If future strike action is planned, it is essential that patients and the public are better informed. This could be achieved through the distribution of informative leaflets to people’s homes and to hospital inpatients. The medical profession are still angry over pension reforms and with calls for further strike action in the air, public backing will be fundamental if we as doctors are to maintain our patients’ trust and respect. It seems that the media has won the first round of the PR battle with lots of negative press, but hopefully no lasting damage has been done, and the war isn't quite over yet.
Competing interests: None declared
Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley
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