Public satisfaction with doctors high, despite bad press

October 04, 2001

Bad press for doctors: 21 year survey of three national newspapers BMJ Volume 323, pp 782-3

National newspapers in the UK contain twice as many negative stories about doctors as positive ones, yet 89% of the public remain satisfied with the way that doctors do their jobs, finds a study in this week's BMJ. Every article published about doctors in the Daily Telegraph, Guardian, and Daily Mail in November from 1980 to 2000 were studied and coded as positive, negative, or neutral towards doctors.

Taken together, the Daily Telegraph, Guardian, and Daily Mail contained more than twice as many negative stories about doctors as positive ones, but there was no significant change in the ratio of negative to positive stories over time. The total number of articles about doctors increased over time.

Several peaks in negative reports were related to several incidents being reported at the same time (for example, Dr Kervokian, Dr Shipman, and Mr Ledward in 1998-9). This suggests that UK newspapers respond to incidents, rather than deliberately campaigning against doctors, say the authors.

"Although we did not directly measure the language used to describe doctors, we noticed that it seems to have become more negative. In spite of this, 89% of the public is satisfied with the way that doctors do their jobs," they conclude.


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