Public perceptions of health and social care in light of COVID-19 (November 2020) Results from an Ipsos MORI survey commissioned by the Health Foundation

January 2021

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Key findings

  • This report presents the findings of a survey commissioned by the Health Foundation and conducted by Ipsos MORI between 13 and 24 November 2020. This was a follow up survey to two previous rounds of polling: the first carried out in May 2020 and the second in July 2020.
  • The survey highlights the public’s strong support for the £20 a week increase in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit for families during the pandemic (74%), with only one in ten opposing it (9%). The majority of the public support making the increase permanent (59%), with one in five opposing this (20%).
  • The public’s concern about the risk of COVID-19 to the health and wellbeing of the nation remains high, with 86% saying they are concerned. However, the public are even more concerned about the knock-on impact of the coronavirus on lifestyles and the economy (94%).
  • The majority of the public say they would feel comfortable using a local hospital (75%) or a local GP service (87%) – in line with the previous survey in July (77% felt comfortable using a local hospital and 89% felt comfortable using a GP service).
  • The survey shows many aspects of the coronavirus pandemic have had a negative impact on people’s mental health. In particular, 73% say that worry about family and friends catching the virus is having a negative impact on their mental wellbeing.
  • Public support for the UK government's response to the pandemic has deteriorated. Only 39% of the public think the government has handled the pandemic well, a fall of 21 percentage points from 60% in May.

The Health Foundation commissioned Ipsos MORI to carry out a survey of the general public in Great Britain to gather their views on a range of health and care issues in light of COVID-19.

This polling data looks at the public’s attitudes towards the impact of coronavirus and Government’s handling of the pandemic. The data shows a number of changes in the public’s perceptions on these issues since July and May this year, when the first two rounds of this polling by Ipsos MORI were carried out.

What do the survey results show on the impact of coronavirus?

  • Concern about the risk that coronavirus presents to the health and wellbeing of the nation remains high and in line with July, with nearly nine in ten (86%) saying they are concerned.
  • However, the public are even more concerned about the risk to health and wellbeing of the knock-on impact of coronavirus on lifestyles and the economy (94%) than about the virus itself. Indeed, they are more likely to be very concerned than they were in July (up from 67% to 72%).
  • A majority of the public report that the coronavirus outbreak has not had any impact on their income (55%). Still around one third say the outbreak has had a negative impact on their income (36%), and this is in line with July (when 35% reported a negative impact). This impact is not equal, in particular with nearly half of people from BAME backgrounds (46%) and 18 to 24 year olds (48%) reporting a negative impact on their income.
  • In general, the public are finding it less hard to do basic things such as getting essential medication and basic food items. A clear majority of around three quarters now find these about the same as before the outbreak.
  • However, nearly three in five (58%) report finding it difficult to communicate with friends and family, up 20 percentage points since July. This is likely explained by the various lockdowns in place.
  • Many aspects of the coronavirus pandemic have had a negative impact on people’s mental health. In particular, nearly three quarters (73%) say that worry about family and friends catching the virus is having a negative impact on their mental wellbeing.
  • Uncertainty about the future, alongside lockdowns and other restrictions to daily activities, have also had a negative impact on the mental health of around two thirds of the public (64% and 65% respectively).

What do the findings show on the government’s handling of the pandemic?

  • The public have again become more critical of the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Three in five (60%) now believe that the government has not handled it well, more than in July (56%) and a large increase of 21 percentage points since May (when 39% thought the government had not handled it well). Two in five think the government has handled the outbreak well (39%).
  • The public is relatively divided on whether or not it is possible to equally protect public health and the economy during the pandemic. While 45% think it is possible, 37% think it is not, and 18% do not offer an opinion or do not know.
  • Around half (49%) think the measures the government has taken so far to tackle the coronavirus outbreak do not go far enough (in line with July). Across successive surveys, the public have become less likely to think that the measures are about right. In November, only around one third (33%) think the measures are about right, down from 40% in July and 58% in May. The public are more likely to think that the measures the government has taken go too far than in July (up from 6% in July to 14% in November).
  • For those who think the measures the government has taken so far have not gone far enough, the restrictions on where people are able to go (30%), restrictions on businesses (25%) and restricting how many people they can see (23%) are identified as not having gone far enough. These restrictions are thought not to have gone far enough largely because coronavirus is still spreading or is spreading too quickly (39%). Others think that the economy has been prioritised over heath (18%).
  • For those who think government measures have gone too far, the measures particularly identified as going too far are restrictions on businesses (50%), on where people are able to go (43%) and how many people they can see (40%). They are thought to have gone too far because they are unnecessary (35%), have had a negative impact on businesses and the economy (35%), represent a lack of freedom (25%) and have had a negative impact on mental health (23%).
  • On balance, the public agree with the government applying stricter restrictions to parts of the country with higher levels of the virus (57%). However, a significant minority of 35% think restrictions should apply equally.
  • The public thinks that a range of different groups have been negatively impacted by the UK government’s approach to handling the coronavirus pandemic. Groups identified as having been most adversely affected are people at higher risk of health complications (87%), older people aged 75 and over (87%), people living in areas with more cases (86%) and people with children (86%).

What are the public’s views on government communication and guidance on the pandemic?

  • The perceived clarity of the government’s current official guidance continues to vary. The government’s guidance on travelling safely is particularly clear (86%), as is the guidance on staying safe outside the home (79%). On both of these, the guidance is now thought to be clearer than it was in July (up from 78% to 86% for travelling safely and up from 62% to 79% for staying safe outside the home).
  • Significant minorities think the advice is not clear on who and how many people they can meet with (40%), attending university (33%) or going to work (31%), and when people should stay at home to self-isolate (31%). However, the guidance on who and how many people they can meet with is again clearer to the public than in July, prior to the rule of six (59% now saying this guidance is clear, compared with 44% in July).

What are the public’s views on Working Tax Credit and Universal Credit?

  • There is strong support for the increase in Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit for families during the pandemic (74%), with only one in ten opposing it (9%). In addition, the majority of the public support making the increase permanent (59%), with one in five opposing this (20%).

What do the survey findings tell us about the public’s experiences of volunteering during the pandemic?

  • Approaching half of the public say they have volunteered to help others in their community during the pandemic (46%), while one in five have themselves benefited from such volunteering (22%).

What is the public’s experience and views of the NHS?

  • Use of health services since the pandemic has continued to increase, as would be expected given the passage of time. Around three in five (59%) have used health services since the first national lockdown. Only 3% say they considered doing so but decided not to (down from 5% in July) and 3% had an appointment cancelled (down from 7% in July).
  • The majority of the public say they would feel comfortable if they needed to use a local hospital (75%) or a local GP service (87%). Levels of comfort remain broadly in line with July, with some groups significantly less likely to feel comfortable using health services. People from white ethnic backgrounds are significantly more likely than people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to feel comfortable using their local hospital services (77% of people from white ethnic backgrounds, compared with 66% of people from BAME backgrounds) or GP practices (87% compared with 81%). Concern about catching coronavirus is the overwhelming reason underlying the public’s lack of comfort in using hospitals (71%). Those who are uncomfortable using a GP practice attribute this to a concern about catching coronavirus (37%) and not being sure if they would get an appointment (30%).
  • The majority of people continue to think that hospitals (68%), GP surgeries (64%) and ambulance services (59%) are managing well at the moment. Fewer participants think NHS 111 and care homes are managing well (44% and 35% respectively), although significant minorities do not know. In general, the public think services are managing less well than they did in July. This may be linked to the second wave of the pandemic.

What are the public’s views on social care?

  • Turning to social care, nearly half (46%) think that some level of means testing for social care, in comparison with an NHS that is ‘free at the point of use’, is fair. A significant minority of 39% think this is unfair. However, fewer think it is unfair than in May, perhaps as the initial impact of the pandemic on social care recedes from the public consciousness.
  • When asked about lifetime limits for social care, around one third (35%) of the public do not accept the premise of individuals paying directly for social care, rather than it coming from something like national insurance. One in five agree there should be a lifetime limit (21%), while one in ten think there should not be (10%). For 28% of the public, this depends on the level at which the limit is set.

What do the results tell us about the public’s views on the contact tracing app?

  • A majority of the public continue to support the contact tracing app (61%), although support has dropped since July (when it was 66%).
  • Half of the public say they have downloaded the app (49%), and small proportions have downloaded it but subsequently deleted it (4%) or intend to download it (4%). The most common use of the app has been to ‘check in’ to a venue (70%) and to check the level of risk in the local area (60%).
  • Around two in five (42%) have not downloaded the app at all. Common reasons for not downloading the app include not having a smartphone (20%), being worried about the privacy of the data (14%) and not wanting to use the app (11%).

About the survey

Please note that we updated this page on Thursday 14 January 2021 to include additional results. 

The November survey was conducted by telephone on the Ipsos MORI CATI Omnibus survey, a weekly telephone omnibus survey of a representative sample of people aged 18 and over in Great Britain. Fieldwork took place between 13 November and 24 November 2020. A total of 2,001 people were interviewed. For the main sample, quotas were set on age, gender, ethnicity, Government Office Region and working status. 

For the overall November findings, data has been weighted to the known population proportions for age within gender, Government Office Region and working status and social grade.

The July and May surveys were also conducted via telephone on the Ipsos MORI CATI Omnibus survey. In the July survey, a total of 2,246 people were interviewed between 17 July and 29 July 2020. In addition to the people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds interviewed as part of the main sample in July, a booster survey was conducted. The July sample included a total of 423 interviews conducted with BAME participants, of which 181 participants were interviewed as part of the main sample and 242 as part of the booster sample. In the May survey, a total of 1,983 people were interviewed between 1 and 10 May 2020. Where questions were repeated in the July and November surveys, these have been included in the report against the May and July data for comparison, with significant differences commented upon.

Cite this publication

Public perceptions of health and social care in light of COVID-19 (November 2020). Health Foundation; 2020 (https://www.health.org.uk/publications/public-perceptions-of-health-and-social-care-in-light-of-covid-19-november-2020)

Further reading

Press release

Majority of public support making Universal Credit uplift permanent

18 December 2020
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New polling results from the Health Foundation and Ipsos MORI shows that the majority of the public...

Report

Public perceptions of health and social care in light of COVID-19 (July 2020)

October 2020
Report

Results from an Ipsos MORI survey commissioned by the Health Foundation between 17 and 29 July 2020.

Report

Public perceptions of health and social care in light of COVID-19 (May 2020)

June 2020
Report

Results from an Ipsos MORI survey commissioned by the Health Foundation between 1 and 10 May 2020.

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