Polling out today (Thursday) from Ipsos and the Health Foundation shows support for government’s handling of the NHS among people in England is the lowest in two decades.
Across the UK as a whole, only 10% of people agree that their government has the right policies for the NHS. This shrinks to just 8% in England, compared to 28% in Scotland and 19% in Wales. Looking since 2003, this is in comparison with a peak of 37% in England in 2008 and 2009 agreeing the government has the right policies.
Due to a change in survey methodology, comparisons with data before 2021 are only indicative, but are consistent with trends seen elsewhere, and illustrate the escalation of concerns among the public.
Today’s 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%) of the public agree that the NHS is providing a good service nationally, a significant fall on the finding (43%) in our last survey in May 2022.
The public is also concerned that the NHS is unlikely to get better in the short term, with 62% thinking that the standard of NHS care will deteriorate over the next 12 months – a significant jump from 39% 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% believe the NHS should be free at the point of delivery
- 89% think the NHS should provide a comprehensive service available to everyone,
- 84% 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% think more funding is needed and support is found across all age groups, UK nations and across the political spectrum (63% among Conservative voters and 94% of Labour voters).
In addition to more funding, the public’s top priorities for the NHS are, addressing the pressure on NHS staff (40%), increasing the number of staff (39%) and improving waiting times for treatment (35%).
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.'
Looking at results since 2003 in England – 34% of people agreed that the NHS was providing a good service nationally in the latest polling, as compared to a peak of 66% in 2012 and 2015.
This survey was conducted between 24 and 30 November 2022. We surveyed 2,063 people aged 16 years and older in the UK via Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel, a random probability online panel. The sample was stratified by nation and education and delivered a response rate of 58%. A weighting spec was applied to the data in line with the target sample profile; this included one which corrected for unequal probabilities of selection of household members (to account for two members who may have been selected from one household), and weights for region, an interlocked variable of Gender by Age, Education, Ethnicity, Index of Multiple Deprivation (quintiles), and number of adults in the household.
Looking since 2003, agreement that the government has the right policies in place for the NHS in England peaked in 2008 and 2009 at 37%. Due to a change in survey methodology, comparisons with data before 2021 are only indicative, but are consistent with trends seen elsewhere. The public have been asked about whether the government has the right policies in place in relation to the NHS since 2003. This question was asked between 2003-2016 by Ipsos/Department of Health (adults aged 16+ face-to-face in England) and November 2021, May 2022 and November 2022 by Ipsos/The Health Foundation (adults aged 16+ online via UK KnowledgePanel). Findings from 2016 and before were collected using a different methodology, and so comparisons should be treated with caution. Findings from 2021 to the present were collected using the same methodology, and are directly comparable.
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