Doctors' strikes: Twitter interest drops since start of year - but support grows

The number of tweets about the strikes by junior doctors plummeted between January and March this year, although it has rebounded in April thus far - with the balance of pro-strike tweets steadily increasing through 2016.

Junior doctors: Outside Great Ormond Street Hospital in London in January (Credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire/Press Association Images)
Junior doctors: Outside Great Ormond Street Hospital in London in January (Credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire/Press Association Images)

Junior doctors in England staged 24-hour strikes against proposed changes to their contracts by the Government on 12 January and 10 February, with 48-hour walkouts taking place on 9-10 March and 6-7 April.

Research carried out by Blue Rubicon using analytics tool Crimson Hexagon found that there had been 187,470 tweets about the strikes in January. This dropped to 101,243 in February and fell again to just 60,974 in March.

However, interest has picked up in April - as of Thursday morning, there had been 39,804 tweets about the strikes during the first week of the month. Blue Rubicon said that the appearance of the cast of TV hospital comedy Green Wing at Northwick Park Hospital in north London was driving a lot of that conversation, as well as involvement of celebrities including Ralf Little and Alison Moyet.

The proportion of tweets voicing support for the strike has risen each month, starting at 59 per cent in January, increasing to 77 per cent in February, 81 per cent in March and currently standing at 88 per cent for April.

Mark Wainwright, senior consultant at Blue Rubicon, said: "Sustaining momentum around one cause is inevitably a tougher task than launching something new, but by sticking to a core narrative and by harnessing high-profile supporters, the strike action has received a much-needed boost in conversation."

The third doctors' strike in March enjoyed substantially less media coverage than previous strikes. In an attempt to retain public support, emergency medical cover has been on hand during the two most recent strikes, despite initial plans to withdraw this labour.

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