Nearly two thirds (64%) of adults aged 15+ in Britain think that taxes should be increased as a way of funding the NHS. And 88% believe that the NHS should be protected from any funding cuts, according to a new poll by the Health Foundation.

The poll also revealed the public’s concerns over the quality of health and social care services. 44% of people think that the standard of NHS care has got worse over the past year, and almost half (48%) think it will get worse over the next year. Half of people think the quality of social care will deteriorate over the next year.

Respondents to the Ipsos MORI poll of 1,985 adults aged 15+ across Great Britain were asked whether, in light of the increasing costs of funding the NHS, they would support raising taxes, reducing spending on other services, or reducing the level of care and services provided by the NHS. The vast majority of people (64%) would prefer to increase taxes, with only 9% favouring reducing the level of care and 17% choosing to reduce spending on other services.

The poll follows the publication last week of the three main political party manifestos, which all included pledges to increase funding for the NHS. But analysis from the Health Foundation found that the funding commitments fell short of what was required to meet the demands on the health service over the next five years.

There is also widespread support among the public for ending the pay freeze, which has limited annual pay increases for NHS staff to 1%. More than three quarters (78%) of people believe the pay limit should be higher than 1% a year.

The poll also highlighted strong support for retaining health and social care workers from the European Union (EU) - almost nine in 10 people (87%) think that existing EU NHS and social care workers should be allowed to stay when the UK leaves the EU.

Ruth Thorlby, Assistant Policy Director at the Health Foundation, said:

‘The NHS is seven years into this decade of austerity, and whoever forms the next government will need to provide additional funding for health and social care if services are to be maintained.

‘The impact of this austerity - overloaded A&E departments, delays in getting people out of hospital, and longer waiting times for surgery - has been covered widely in the media, and has got through to the public, some of whom may well have had direct experience as well. The public has understood that the NHS and social care need more generous funding, and it is striking that such a significant majority say they are willing to see taxes rise, rather than reduce levels of service or see more cuts to other public services.

‘This is not a blank cheque of goodwill though. Half of respondents to this poll also believe there is waste in the NHS, reinforcing the need for NHS services to continue with efforts to be more efficient regardless of any funding settlement, by reducing the use of agency staff for example, or using the best value drugs and equipment.  

‘The results of this survey also reveal that the public are worried about staff too, with very high support for guaranteeing the future of existing staff from the EU working in the NHS and social care, and a lifting of the 1% pay restraint. With wages now rising more quickly in other parts of the economy, this reinforces how important it is for the next government to look at pay and conditions in the NHS and social care.’

Other key findings from the research include:

  • Half of the respondents (50%) think the NHS often wastes money.
  • People’s biggest concern when going into hospital (A&E) is waiting times (70% of people saying this). All other concerns polled below 20%.
  • While almost a third of people don’t have a preference about where they receive NHS-funded care, there has been an increase in the number of people preferring to go to an NHS service – from 39% in the 2014 British Social Attitudes Survey to 54% in 2017.

Media contact

Pete Stilwell
0207 664 4647           

Notes to editors

  • Interviews were carried out on Capibus, Ipsos MORI’s face to face omnibus survey. 1,985 GB adults aged 15+ were interviewed between Friday 5th and Monday 15th May 2017 in respondent’s homes using CAPI (Computer Aided Personal Interviewing) methodology.
  • Data are weighted to age, region, working status and social grade within gender, as well as household tenure and respondent ethnicity using rim weighting.
  • Where comparisons are made with the 2014 British Social Attitudes Survey, the sample is filtered only to adults 18+ and weighted to a profile reflecting this age range
  • Interviews for the British Social Attitudes Survey 2014 were conducted by NatCen. The referenced questions were asked of 2,878 adults 18+ in Great Britain using CAPI (Computer Aided Personal Interviewing) methodology.
  • Interviewing was mainly carried out between June and September 2013, with a small number of interviews taking place in October and November.
  • Data have been weighted to the British population aged 18+ based on 2011 Census data from the Office for National Statistics/General Register Office for Scotland.
  • The survey data were weighted to the marginal age/sex and GOR distributions using raking-ratio (or rim) weighting.
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