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The BMA does not take public trust in doctors for granted nor does it underestimate the potential for adverse reactions from the public or patients to events such as Bristol and Alder Hey.1 Accordingly, it has commissioned regular research via MORI on the issue and did so at intervals during the 1980s and 1990s and on an annual basis between 1999 and 2005. The findings support a conclusion of ongoing trust and belief in medical competence, with little deviation even at times of highly adverse publicity.
The public was asked whether it trusted a variety of professions and occupations to tell the truth. The figure (top)(top) shows the findings for doctors over time. An additional question asked from 1999 to 2003 explicitly prompted respondents over negative publicity on doctors and asked whether in the light of this doctors did a good job. In 2000 specific reference was made to Bristol in the preamble and from 2001 onwards reference was also made explicitly to Alder Hey (figure (bottom)(bottom)).
Neither set of findings seems to support the view that such events shook the foundations of public trust and professional confidence. Furthermore, respondents with experience of the NHS were more likely to state that they thought doctors did their job very well.
Competing interests: JF is employed by the BMA.