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Sympathy for Government weakens as public-sector strikes go on, poll shows

The Government is not doing enough to negotiate with workers to prevent strikes, according to a new poll, with junior doctors retaining public support as they prepare for a fresh wave of industrial action.

It comes as medics announced the first joint strike in the history of the NHS, which is expected to bring widespread disruption in September and October.

More than half (53%) of 1,000 adults in Britain surveyed by Ipsos said they supported junior doctors – down three points since the last poll in June – while 31% are against the strikes.

Consultants continue to divide public opinion, with 44% opposing strikes by senior medics compared to 38% who support action.

Industrial strike
Striking consultants on the picket line outside Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham in July (Jacob King/PA)

Support for consultants is in line with rail workers, with 43% opposing strikes and 36% supporting them.

However, 57% of those who responded to the Ipsos poll said they felt the Government is doing a “bad job” of negotiating with workers to prevent walkouts, up six points compared to June.

Some 17% think Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is doing “a good job” when it comes to talks.

Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos UK, said: “Britain continues to face strike action as we enter the autumn and there is continuity in public attitudes towards them too.

“The strikes by railway workers and consultant doctors divide opinion, with opposition tending to outweigh support, but there is more sympathy for other striking NHS workers such as junior doctors.

“There is much less sympathy for the Government, who most Britons think is doing a bad job at handling the negotiations to put an end to these public-sector strikes.”

The Government has said junior doctors would get pay rises of 6%, along with an additional consolidated £1,250 increase, and hospital consultants will also receive 6%.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the “pay award is final”.

NHS England waiting lists
The Health Secretary has said there will be no more talks on pay for medics (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

On Thursday, the British Medical Association (BMA) said junior doctors will be joining their senior colleagues in co-ordinated strike action later this month.

Consultants had already announced a 48-hour strike, starting on September 19, and will now be joined by junior medics on September 20.

Junior doctors will then continue their walkout into September 21 and September 22.

On October 2, 3 and 4, both consultants and junior doctors will strike together in what has been described as a “serious escalation” in their bitter dispute with the Government.

Mr Barclay urged “the BMA to call an end to this callous and calculated disruption”.

Elsewhere in the public sector, train drivers represented by Aslef walked out on September 1, with an overtime ban on September 2.

Staff represented by the RMT union are also set to walk out on September 2.

The Ipsos survey showed the strongest support from the public would be for strikes by nurses (63%) and ambulances workers (60%).

Some 45% of people also think employers hold too much power in Britain while 57% said workers do not have enough power.

The Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Transport have been approached for comment.