Junior doctors’ strikes: Overwhelming support from HCPs online

12.01.2024 | News

Junior doctors’ strikes: Overwhelming support from HCPs online

Following failed discussions with the government concerning pay, junior doctors announced in early December 2023 that they would be carrying out two strikes, one between 20-23rd December and the other being their longest strike action in NHS history, a six day strike between 3rd and 9th January 2024. This follows strikes by other key groups earlier in the year, including nurses and consultants, which CREATION.co had analysed previously to determine how healthcare professionals (HCPs) were responding to them. 

Following the announcement of these latest strikes, CREATION.co analysed the online conversation of HCPs to find out their current sentiment and views. Just over 1,000 HCPs discussed the strikes online between 3rd December 2023 and 3rd January 2024, with over 2,600 posts mentioning the strikes. HCPs actively shared their views and opinions of the strikes as it was announced, and during the strikes itself, but conversation was more subdued in between.

Online support for junior doctors’ strikes increased compared to previous strikes in 2023

As HCPs shared their opinions online following the announcement and during the strikes, it became clear that HCPs online in the UK were overwhelmingly positive towards the junior doctor strikes, with 94% expressing positive sentiment towards the strikes, while only 2% of HCPs who shared their thoughts online felt negatively towards it. 

When expressing support for the strikes, the most used hashtag by HCPs was #payrestoration, with HCPs across different seniority levels and roles saying there was an injustice in the decline in real-pay for junior doctors over the last 15 years. This was the primary reason behind the support for junior doctors, with HCPs being quick to point out that it is not about a pay rise but reversing a pay cut.

75 HCPs in the UK, most of whom were not junior doctors, reshared this post by the BMA Junior Doctors X account:

Having analysed the sentiments of HCPs online surrounding the nurses’ strike and consultants’ strike, it is notable that positive sentiment towards industrial action has risen significantly in this instance compared to previously.

HCPs online call on junior doctors to ‘Strike Hard’

Whilst patient safety was a key factor for disapproval during the nurses strike, and consultants earning enough being the main factor for disapproval during the consultants strike, neither of those were major sentiments which impacted the overall sentiment towards the junior doctors strikes. HCPs online were aware and supportive of the pay restoration being sought by junior doctors and there was no indication in the conversation that other HCPs felt junior doctors were being paid enough. Notably, calls to ‘strike hard’ were shared by HCPs online nearly 50 times, with HCPs expressing that this sort of action was necessary to save the NHS and protect the patients, showing a growing positivity towards this sort of industrial action.

However, the limited amount of negativity towards the junior doctors strikes echoed some of the concerns for patient safety seen in previous strikes, coming from HCPs who felt that the NHS was too stretched, and that the strikes would place too much pressure, particularly given the time of year. James Whiteside, a psychologist, shared a post which stated, 

“Junior doctors’ strike will force thousands of patients to spend Christmas in hospital as staff walk out for three days this week ahead of a six-day stoppage in the New Year.


These doctors are shameful..”

Specialised doctors and nurses spoke out in support of junior doctors

Rather than junior doctors speaking out about their own cause, it was nurses, general practitioners and other specialist roles who were the most vocal online in speaking out in support for the junior doctors’ strikes. One third of posts by nurses used the term ‘solidarity’, displaying a sense of camaraderie with junior doctors, as seen in this post by clinical nurse Harry Eccles:

Similarly, GPs and specialists also found a sense of comradeship when expressing their support for junior doctors striking, referencing both their own experience as junior doctors and their current aims.

“I’m a GP and I  fully support the Junior Doctors strike. I’ve been a Junior Dr albeit a long time ago and it’s so much harder now. They deserve pay restoration #JuniorDoctorsStrike #teamGP” – GP in South Cumbria

“I also did 80+ hour weeks. I can’t say the decisions I made towards the end of those weeks were as good as the ones I made at the beginning. Shifts are there for a reason. […] I completely support the strikes. Not just on pay, but on the crazy working conditions junior doctors have to tolerate these days.” – GP in Wales

“Junior Drs deserve full pay restoration, as do consultants, GPs and SAS Drs. The strikes are working: the government has shifted a long way since this campaign started. I hope this helps a little bit to get us all the way.” – Anaesthetist in London

Consultants dispelled media narrative in expression of support for junior doctors

A key theme in the online conversation around the junior doctors’ strikes is the support of consultants, in particular when quashing the online narrative of a divided relationship between consultants and junior doctors. Consultants online spoke up to deny this narrative, expressing frustrations at ‘attempts to divide and conquer’. In tandem with this, consultants were quick to deny the assumption that the strikes would compromise patient safety, vocalising that senior doctors have stepped up in the absence of their juniors. 

Will strikes continue?

It is clear to see that HCP sentiment online towards industrial action and striking is becoming more supportive as more strikes are announced. With a long six day strike taking place, HCPs are increasingly feeling the need to take drastic measures in order to be heard, and online conversation reveals that they are not willing to backdown unless the government meets their demands, with senior doctors even willing to say no to existing deals without a better deal for all their NHS colleagues. If this sentiment trend seen in the online conversations of HCPs continues, it could be the case that strikes will continue in 2024 unless a suitable negotiation is achieved. 


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Meet the Author

Francesca Gan

Fran analyses the unprompted online conversations of healthcare professionals to produce actionable insights for clients. Her background in legal research provides a solid foundation in critical thinking and enables a well rounded approach to her data research.

Fran has a keen interest in netball and is a big follower of the New Zealand domestic netball league. She is also a lover of board games and card games, especially ones that involve shouting!