Does it matter what the public think of doctors? #WILTW

This is the 120th #WILTW

I did a double take on an e-mail I received this week. It was from a sales agent who had been chasing up confirmation of a booking I’d cancelled due to a change of plans.

“Ok shame but thanks for letting know.

Noticing your email signature….keep up the valuable good work!”

The cynical might suggest this was good business practice. Saying something positive to the customer in the hope of future sales. If this was the case – fair play – but I’ve never had this happen before and I’m hoping it was genuinely felt.

Doctors often rank as the most trusted of the professions. Trusted Professions

This holds true in many other countries, although it is of note a similar survey in Australia ranked nurses top (92% – unchanged from 2015 and the 22nd year in a row they have come first)

Does this support matter? It is topical as the recent announcement of further strikes by Junior Doctors in the UK is likely to push public support to the limit. It is a challenging debate – one in which truths are hard to come by. Ultimately the junior doctors are taking on a wider challenge – what can, and should be, delivered by the NHS? This is as much a question of political ideology as it is one of economics. The Junior Doctors the first victims of a desire to provide a greater spread of services in the same cost envelope. Others will follow and in some case already have (although to much less fanfare). Sadly for the junior doctors their services are in between the government and the patient. They will be seen as arbiter of the disruption that is caused.  They are in a trap. It will be Junior Doctors that the media will see as the problem. However eloquent their arguments the narrative can always be brought back to their withdrawal of work.

It may well be remembered the medical profession let the juniors down. Long term flat growth in the NHS is not sustainable and the system will fail. This is the unified argument that needs to be moved forward by professionals to the politicians. The doctor’s strike perhaps a welcome distraction for the government.

But what of the public and the patients who need the NHS? What argument should they make? This open letter from a group of patients to both Jeremy Hunt and British Medical Association may provide the answer:

“If this dispute is strictly about pay, then fine. The two of you should be able to sort it. But if it is about pay AND conditions, then it is about patient safety. And if this is about patient safety (and both sides say it is), then enough is enough—patients need to have a say.”

The medical profession has been blessed with strong public support for a considerable period of time. If we think it matters what the public think of us then perhaps considering how they can be practically involved in aiding this dispute would be a good way of repaying the respect.

What have you learnt this week? #WILTW

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3 thoughts on “Does it matter what the public think of doctors? #WILTW”

  1. I read this blog as a doctor but now as a concerned relative sitting at my wife’s bedside waiting for her to go to theatre. I do my job because I love it and rarely think of how its perceived. Sitting here now though I have such admiration for the staff her on a Sunday working long hours in difficult conditions to ensure the best for all of us. It’s easy to forget how lucky we are to have the NHS. It’s true that junior doctors are the ones making the stand but the aim is to safeguard future healthcare for all.

  2. Sadly doctors are losing the PR/ spin battle with the government. The press are mostly portraying it as greedy doctors wanting more money for less work which is of course rubbish and unfortunately the BMA have played their cards very badly so doctors and patients are suffering and the government have once again avoided facing the real problems in the NHS by successful displacement activity.

  3. Interesting that nurses topped the antipodean poll. I feel very strongly that the RCN should have stepped up to support the junior doctors and that their failure is a betrayal of their colleagues, their patients. and the NHS and Nation.

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