Opinion Former Article

RCP: Doctors once again the most trusted profession

Doctors have been named the profession most trusted by the general public for the 25th year running[1], according to the latest Ipsos MORI survey commissioned by the Royal College of Physicians. The annual poll indicates that over nine in ten adults in Britain believe doctors can be trusted to tell the truth, coming ahead of - for example, teachers, professors and judges.

More than 2,000 adults were asked by Ipsos MORI to say whether they generally trusted 16 different types of people to tell the truth or not. More than ninety per cent of the public (92%) said they trusted doctors to tell the truth when the survey was conducted in late 2008. Doctors were closely followed by teachers (87%). The next most trusted were: professors (79%), judges (78%) and clergymen/priests (74%), completing the top five.

At the other end of the scale, only about one in four adults says they trust government ministers to tell the truth (24%), and only one in five trusts politicians in general (21%). Journalists move up a non-significant percentage point from 2007, but remain among the lowest ranked, and this year come last with just 19% trusting them to tell the truth.

There was an overall drop in trust across the board in the 2007 study.[2] In a number of cases, the increases in trust seen in 2008 restore the figures to 2006 levels.

Comparison between the 2006 and 2008 figures reveals that the most notable changes are for: the ordinary man/woman in the street to tell the truth (a four percentage point increase) - perhaps suggesting greater empowerment of ordinary citizens; trade union officials (+4); the police (+4); judges (+3) and pollsters (-3, but up 3 points on 2007).

Professor Ian Gilmore, President of the Royal College of Physicians, said: "While this remains reassuring for the medical profession, there is no room for complacency. The trust of patients in the modern world has to be earned and retained, and we can do this only by carefully reviewing the changing needs of patients in all aspects of their care. This will include the timely provision of information and the involvement of patients in a true partnership in decisions about their treatment. We are fortunate in having an active patient and carer network integrated into the College to ensure that their views are central to our work."

Sir Robert Worcester, Founder of Ipsos MORI, said: "It is a media myth that people are losing trust generally, and specifically that they are losing trust in doctors. In 1983, 82% said they trusted doctors to tell the truth; now this is up ten points, to 92%.

"The stability of these figures across the board is most revealing about the trust people have in the various occupations. Over the past 15 years, on average, the overall level of trust has not varied from 54%, plus or minus three percentage points.

"In the 25 years that MORI has measured the 'veracity' of these types of people most have remained stable throughout, only doctors (up ten points), teachers (up eight points), civil servants (up 23 points), trade union officials (up 27 points) and Government Ministers (up 8 points) going up by more than five points. The only group down by more than five points is the clergy (down 11)."

[1]Doctors have come first on the list of most trusted professions every year since the MORI poll began in 1983, including one year (1993) when they were joint first with teachers.

2 This was with the exception of judges, for whom trust increased by three percentage points; and Government Ministers for whom the figure remained stable, and at a low level. (Furthermore, the one percentage point fall for journalists - from a low level, was not significant).

Notes to Editors

1. Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative quota sample of 2,029 adults aged 16+ across Great Britain in 210 sampling points, on its PAM (Public Affairs Monitor) omnibus study. Interviews were carried out face-to-face, in home, using CAPI (computer assisted personal interviewing) methodology. Fieldwork was from 13-18 November 2008.

Results have been weighted to the known GB adult population profile. The full report and computer tables are available from RCP at http://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/Pages/index.aspx or can be downloaded from www.ipsos-mori.com or www.britishpollingcouncil.org/objects.html

2. The Royal College of Physicians of London provides a huge range of services to our 20,000 Members and Fellows and other medical professionals. These include delivering examinations, training courses, continuous professional development and conferences; undertaking clinical audits; publishing newsletters, guidelines and books; hospital medicine, through to maintaining the College's historical collections. We also lead medical debate, and lobby and advise government and other decision-makers on behalf of our members.

3. For further information contact Zoë Horwich, Communications Officer on 020 7935 1174 ext 354/ email zoe.horwich@rcplondon.ac.uk

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