Majority of young people in the UK and those on lower incomes fear they will have to pay to use health care in the future

2 July 2018

New polling data finds that more than half (55%) of people aged 15-24 in the UK believe in 70 years’ time they will have to pay for NHS services that are free to use now. 

Research commissioned by the Health Foundation reveals young people aged 15-24, known as ‘generation Z’, are more pessimistic about the NHS’s future than the ‘millennial’ generation, aged 25-34, before them.  This polling was commissioned alongside work with the Nuffield Trust, The King’s Fund and the Institute for Fiscal Studies to mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS.

Less than half (48%) of those aged 25-34, believe they will have to pay for health care services in the future compared to over half (55%) of people aged 15-24.  Nearly one in five (17%) people aged 15-24 believe the National Health Service won’t exist at all. 

The findings also show the majority (56%) of those on lower incomes (earning between £11,500-£24,999 per annum) fear they will have to pay for health care in the future, with just over one in five (22%) believing the NHS won’t be here in 70 years’ time.

Two in five (40%) of those aged 15-24 believe the NHS should provide the most effective drugs and treatment, no matter how much they cost.  In contrast, just over a quarter (28%) of those over 65 shared this view. The majority (44%) of those over 65 instead felt the NHS should provide the most effective drugs and treatments provided they represent good value for money.

A majority (79%) of people aged 15-24 think the health service is underfunded in its current state.  Around a quarter (24%) of young people tended to agree the NHS is underfunded while over half (55%) strongly agreed. 

Over half (51%) of people aged 15-24 are in favour of rising taxes to fund increased spending on the NHS.

Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, said:

‘The NHS was founded nearly 70 years to this day to give security to everyone, rich or poor, that they will be properly cared for regardless of ability to pay. This important principle unites the nation and is the reason why the NHS tops the list of why people are proud to be British. Young people have made clear they are in favour of a comprehensive free national health system where drugs and treatments are available to all, and they are willing to pay extra tax to fund it. But it is a concern that the young, and those on lower incomes – those in most need of protection from financial hardship – fear that it may not exist as a service free to all in 70 years’ time, or even exist at all.

‘The government’s recent funding settlement for the NHS is welcome. But this is only one step to ensure the NHS is sustainable into the future. Next will be to make sure that plans to spend the NHS funding boost address long as well as short term issues, and public health and social care are properly resourced.’

Further information

  • Research was conducted on CAPIbus, Ipsos MORI’s weekly face to face survey. 2,083 adults 15+ were interviewed across the UK between 11th and 29th May 2018 in participant’s homes using a Computer Aided Personal Interviewing (CAPI) methodology.
  • Data have been weighted to age, working status, government office region and social grade within gender, with household tenure and ethnicity according to known population profiles.

Further reading


NHS at 70: Public perceptions

Poll conducted for the Health Foundation in partnership with The King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and the Institute for Fiscal Stu...

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