POLLING from the Health Foundation shows that support among people in England for the UK government’s handling of the NHS is at the lowest in two decades.   

Across the UK as a whole, only 10 per cent of people agree that their government has the right policies for the NHS. This shrinks to just eight per cent in England, compared to 28 per cent in Scotland (where health is devolved) and 19 per cent in Wales. Looking at the figures since 2003, this compares with a peak of 37 per cent in England in 2008 and 2009 agreeing that the government has the right policies.

Due to a change in survey methodology, comparisons with data before 2021 are only indicative, but they are consistent with trends seen elsewhere, and illustrate the escalation of concerns among the public.

The findings, from fieldwork carried out in November 2022, are the latest wave of polling from Ipsos and the Health Foundation on the public’s views about health and social care. It shows deepening public concern about NHS services. Across the UK, only a third (33 per cent) of the public agree that the NHS is providing a good service nationally, a significant fall on the finding (43 per cent) since the Health Foundation’s last survey in May 2022.

The public is also concerned that the NHS is unlikely to get better in the short term, with 62 per cent thinking that the standard of NHS care will deteriorate over the next 12 months – a significant jump from 39 per cent who thought this in May 2022.

Despite these concerns, the public’s commitment to the founding principles of the NHS remains as strong as ever:

  • 90 per cent believe the NHS should be free at the point of delivery
  • 89 per cent think the NHS should provide a comprehensive service available to everyone,
  • 84 per cent think the NHS should be funded primarily through taxation.
The public is clear about what needs to be done to tackle the issues facing the NHS: 82 per cent think more funding is needed and support is found across all age groups, UK nations and across the political spectrum (63 per cent among Conservative voters and 94 per cent of Labour voters).

In addition to more funding, the public’s top priorities for the NHS are, addressing the pressure on NHS staff (40 per cent), increasing the number of staff (39 per cent) and improving waiting times for treatment (35 per cent).

Tim Gardner, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation, said: “That public confidence in the government’s handling of the NHS has reached a new low should ring alarm bells in Number 10. Too many people are experiencing avoidable pain and suffering while they wait for treatment. The public has sent a clear message to government to increase funding for the NHS and address issues like long waits, high staff vacancies and pressure on doctors, nurses and other staff.

“There has been much debate in recent months about changing the NHS funding model – such as charging for GP appointments or a switch to social insurance. As well as being a costly distraction, there is no evidence voters want a radical change to the NHS model, they just want the current one to work better.

“If the government is committed to addressing the crisis in the NHS, it needs to produce a comprehensive plan, backed by sufficient investment, for getting the NHS and social care onto a more sustainable footing and urgently addressing workforce shortages.”

* Read the full report here.

* Source: The Health Foundation