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Doctors say Brexit bad for the NHS

With the persistent underfunding of the National Health Service,  crippling 'efficiency savings' and increased pressure on doctors, nurses and other health care workers, it is little surprise that the doctors in the UK have shifted in the political spectrum.  A new study finds that a once generally 'Conservative' profession has now become more leftwing.

The survey published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health finds that British doctors are now mostly left-leaning and liberal minded...except for surgeons and high earners.

UK doctors think Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU), dubbed Brexit, will be very bad for the NHS.



As a group, they are predominantly left-wing and liberal-minded. But high earners tend to lean more to the right of the political spectrum, while surgeons are twice as likely as other specialties to express right-wing views.

When respondents rated their political beliefs on a scale of 0 (extremely left wing) to 10 (extremely right wing), the average score was 4. But the higher the income bracket, the more likely was the respondent to lean to the right.

Surgeons were twice as likely to register a right wing score, while psychiatrists and public health doctors were half as likely to do so. And junior doctors at specialty training entry level (ST3) and above were less likely to express right wing views relative to all other grades.

Nearly two thirds (just over 62%) of respondents described themselves as liberal while nearly one in four (23.6%) said they were conservative.

Shift to the left

There was a shift to the left between the 2015 and 2017 elections, with the proportion of doctors voting Labour rising from just over 29 percent to just over 46 percent, while the proportion voting Conservative fell from just over 26 percent to just under 20 percent.

Among those who were ineligible/unable to vote in 2017, nearly a third (just under 30%) said they would have opted for a Labour candidate. Voter turnout among doctors for both elections was significantly higher than among the electorate.

Overwhelmingly against Brexit

Doctors overwhelmingly backed staying in the EU, with nearly eight out of 10 voting to remain in the 2016 referendum. Among those ineligible/unable to vote, more than 85 percent said they would have voted to remain in the bloc. Only 2 percent of respondents didn’t vote compared with nearly 28 percent of the electorate.

Brexit bad for NHS

Virtually all respondents agreed that EU nationals working in the NHS should be allowed to stay in the UK after Brexit. And most thought Brexit would be very bad for the NHS, irrespective of grade, income, or specialty, giving it an average score of 2 on a 0 (worst outcome) to 10 (best) scale. Nearly 83 percent scored it below 5.

In terms of their views on health policy, most backed minimum unit pricing for alcohol (74%); charging patients not eligible for NHS treatment for non-urgent care (71%); and protected funding for the NHS (87%). And two thirds (just under 66%) thought there was too much private sector care funded by the NHS: only surgeons were half as likely to agree.

This is the first large scale study look at the political opinions of UK doctors, say the authors, but they acknowledge that despite their best efforts, the sample may not be fully representative, so should be taken as an indication only of the views of the UK medical workforce.


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