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

October 2020

Front cover of Health Foundation July 2020 polling report by Ipsos MORI

Key findings

  • This report presents the findings of a survey commissioned by the Health Foundation and conducted by Ipsos MORI between 17 and 29 July 2020. (This was a follow up survey to the first round of polling carried out in May 2020).
  • The results highlight a significant change in the public’s perceptions towards the Government’s handling of COVID-19 and the measures it has taken to tackle the outbreak so far. The public are more critical of the Government’s handling of the Coronavirus outbreak. A majority (56%) now believe that the Government has not handled it well, significantly more than in May (39%).
  • The survey shows that the clarity of the Government’s current official guidance varies. Nearly four in five think the guidance on wearing face masks on public transport is clear (78%), but less than half (44%) think official advice on who and how many people you can meet is clear (54% think it is unclear).
  • The survey also shows that overall public confidence in using NHS services is returning, with around three-quarters (77%) of people reporting they would be comfortable using a hospital – a significant increase from 52% in May.
  • However, concerns about using hospitals is greater among some of the groups worst affected by Covid-19, with more than one in four (28%) people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and more than a third (34%) of people with a disability saying they would feel uncomfortable about using their local hospital, compared with just over one in five overall (22%).
  • The results show awareness of the Government’s contact tracing app has increased since May (from 36% knowing a great deal or fair amount in May to 47% in July) However, people from a black and minority ethnic background, women, those in the youngest and oldest age groups, routine and skilled manual workers, and the unemployed  are all less likely to be aware of the  plans  – reinforcing concerns about a potential ‘digital divide’.
  • Just over half of the public (52% in July compared to 62% in May) say they are likely to download the app. Younger people (18-24) are more likely to say they would download the app, use the app or self-isolate based on its advice (57%), while the oldest age groups (65+) are the least likely to do so (41%).
  • The results show that concern about the risk that coronavirus poses to the health and wellbeing of the nation has fallen, but remains extremely high (86% in July compared to 94% in May). However, the public are more concerned (94%) about the knock-on impact of the virus on lifestyles and the economy.
  • The financial impacts of the virus on people’s income have improved slightly since May (35% compared to 41%). However, people from a black and minority ethnic background are more likely to report that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their income, with 43% reporting a negative financial impact compared to 35% overall.
  • The survey shows that the public think living somewhere safe and having access to affordable, healthy food have the greatest impact on people’s chances of living a long and healthy life (71% and 68% respectively). Education level and access to transport are seen to have the smallest impact (36% and 30% respectively). Interestingly, the areas the public think the Government has a greatest responsibility for are education and ensuring safe neighbourhoods (75% and 63% respectively).

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 new polling data looks at the public’s attitudes towards the Government’s handling of COVID-19 and the measures it has taken to tackle the outbreak so far. The data shows a significant change in the public’s perceptions on these issues since May this year, when the first round of this polling by Ipsos MORI was carried out.

What do the survey findings show on the Government's handling of the coronavirus outbreak?

The public are becoming more critical of the Government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

A majority (56%) now believe that the Government has not handled it well, significantly more than in May (39%). Half of the public think that the Government measures do not go far enough (50%), while a minority believe the measures are about right (40%). Only 33% of people from a black and minority ethnic background think the measures are about right – compared to 40% overall – which is perhaps unsurprising given that black and minority ethnic groups are among the worst affected by the virus.

The clarity of the Government’s current official guidance varies.

The guidance on travelling safely is clear (78%), along with the guidance on self-isolation (68%) and staying safe outside the home (62%). However, significant minorities think the advice is not clear (for example, 46% think the guidance on visiting places safely is not clear) and a majority of 54% think the guidance around who and how many people they can meet with is not clear.

There is scepticism among the public that other people are following the Government’s advice.

Three in five believing that other people are not following advice on who and how many people you can meet with (62%), and advice on visiting places such as pubs and shops (59%). Perceptions of the clarity of Government advice appears to affect how the public perceive compliance with this advice – there is a clear correlation between guidance which the public believe is unclear, and guidance which the public believe other people are not following.

The majority of the public (77%) would support a social care visa for people living in the EU to come to the UK to start working in social care.

A new points-based immigration system will be put in place in January 2021. Under the government’s current plans, people living in the EU are unlikely to be able to come to the UK to fill some of the 122,000 vacancies as most pay less than the £25,600 salary requirement.
 

What do the survey findings show about the public's views on immigration reform and social care?

The majority of the public (77%) would support a social care visa for people living in the EU to come to the UK to start working in social care.

A new points-based immigration system will be put in place in January 2021. Under the government’s current plans, people living in the EU are unlikely to be able to come to the UK to fill some of the 122,000 vacancies as most pay less than the £25,600 salary requirement.
 

What do the survey findings show about the public's experience and views of the NHS?

The impact of coronavirus on the use of health services appears to be lessening.

Around two in five of the public have used health services since the Government introduced lockdown (42%, compared with 24% in May), and fewer people have had an appointment cancelled/been asked not to come compared with May (down from 12% in May to 7% in July). Most commonly, people access their GP practice (61%) or local hospital (24%).

However, people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are less likely to report using health services.

The survey showed that 36% of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds have reported using health services (compared with 42% overall) and are more likely to have considered using a health service but decided not to (9%, compared with 5% overall), an important finding given the known increased impact of coronavirus on black and minority ethnic communities.

Where people accessed services, the majority felt comfortable doing so, though there was some variation depending on the service used.

Compared with May, the public would also now feel more comfortable over the next 3–4 weeks if they needed to use their local hospital (77% would now feel comfortable, compared with 52% in May) or GP service (89% would now feel comfortable, compared with 78% in May). Where people are uncomfortable accessing services, this is largely due to concern about coronavirus exposure (72% for hospitals and 53% for the GP services).

People from black and minority ethnic backgrounds also say they would feel less comfortable accessing their local hospital (28% would feel uncomfortable, compared with 22% overall).

What do the survey findings show about contact tracing via a smartphone app or the NHS Test and Trace programme?

Awareness of the Government’s contact tracing app has increased since May (from 36% knowing a great deal or fair amount in May to 47% in July), although over half (53%) know just a little, have only heard of, or know nothing about the app. When given no information about the app, just over half of the public (52%) say they would download it. There is no difference in reported likelihood to download the app depending on whether a decentralised or centralised version of the app.

There are few reservations about sharing contact details of people who they have come into contact with as part of the NHS Test and Trace programme – nine in ten (90%) say they would be likely to do so. And the public are more likely to self-isolate if asked to by a NHS contact tracer (95%) than if suggested to by the app (84%).

What do the survey findings show about the public’s views of health inequalities?

  • The public think living somewhere safe and having access to affordable, healthy food have the greatest impact on people’s chances of living a long and healthy life (71% and 68% respectively think they have a great deal of impact). Education level and access to transport are seen to have the smallest impact (36% and 30% respectively think they have a great deal of impact).
  • However, the public think the Government has the greatest responsibility for education and ensuring safe neighbourhoods (75% and 63% respectively think the Government has a great deal of responsibility for these).
  • Areas of both relatively high perceived impact and Government responsibility are living somewhere safe, housing conditions, and employment and working conditions.
  • In general, people from BAME backgrounds are more likely to think that the Government has responsibility for addressing the different areas of inequality.
  • With regards to the Government’s 'levelling up' agenda, it is most important to the public that this addresses differences in people’s economic prosperity (62% say this is very important). This is followed by addressing differences in how healthy people are (56% say this is very important), differences in access to transport (50%) and differences in access to good quality broadband (36%).

About the survey

The July 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 17 and 29 July 2020. A total of 2,246 people were interviewed.

For the main sample, quotas were set on age, gender, Government Office Region and working status. In addition to the people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds interviewed as part of the main sample, a booster survey was conducted. The sample includes a total of 423 interviews conducted with black and minority ethnic participants.

For the overall July findings, data has been weighted to the known population proportions for age within gender, Government Office Region and working status and social grade. For the black and minority ethnic findings, data has been weighted to the known population proportions for age, gender, Government Office Region, working status and social grade. The May survey was also conducted via telephone on the Ipsos MORI CATI Omnibus survey. A total of 1,983 people were interviewed between 1 and 10 May 2020. Where questions were repeated in the July survey, these have been included in the report against the May data for comparison, with significant differences commented upon.

About this publication

Please note that we updated this page and publication on Thursday 10 September, Wednesday 23 September and Monday 5 October 2020 to include additional results.

Cite this publication

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

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