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Key points

  • This report highlights findings from the second survey in our programme of public perceptions research, delivered in partnership with Ipsos and conducted between 26 May and 1 June 2022. We surveyed 2,068 people aged 16 years and older in the UK. 
  • The public is pessimistic about the state of the NHS. The majority (55%) think the general standard of care has got worse in the past 12 months. Across the UK as a whole, just 13% think their national government has the right policies for the NHS. But the public points to priorities for future policy: reducing waiting times for routine hospital treatment and expanding and supporting the workforce are their top priorities for the NHS. The public supports a mix of measures to fix NHS staffing issues, even if they mean extra public spending. 
  • The public is also pessimistic about adult social care, although less so than in November 2021. The majority (56%) think standards have got worse over the past 12 months. Looking ahead, 43% think standards will deteriorate further. Only 15% of the public thinks social care services in their local area are good. 
  • The public wants a better health service, not a departure from the NHS model. 77% believe, ‘The NHS is crucial to British society and we must do everything to maintain it.’ And they back additional spending to support it: 71% think greater government investment in the NHS is necessary over and above new funds raised through the health and care levy. 
  • The public is also deeply concerned about the impacts of rising costs of living on the nation’s health. 57% think rising living costs are a high or very high threat to the health of UK citizens. 72% believe overall health and wellbeing has declined in the past 12 months. However, they are less concerned about the threat of increases to the cost of living to their own personal health (22% think they pose a high or very high threat to their health).

This report presents findings from the second survey in our programme of research into public perceptions of health and social care, delivered in partnership with Ipsos. 

Health and social care services are under extreme strain and improvements in life expectancy are stalling. As the new prime minister sets out her agenda for government, understanding what the public thinks should inform policy. And the public perceives the standard of NHS and social care services as having declined in the past 12 months – and is more likely to expect that standards will get worse over the next year rather than improve. But the public also has strong support for the NHS as an institution and points to clear priorities for improving services.

This report covers public perceptions of health policy and performance in five areas: the NHS, social care, NHS and social care funding, public health, and the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The final section discusses the implications of our findings for national policy.

Overall, our analysis shows high levels of concern among the public about the standards of NHS and social care services. It also reflects the public’s anxieties around the cost-of-living crisis and the threat this poses to health. It is hard to see how the new prime minister can reconcile her commitments to cut taxes and shrink the state with addressing the concerns of the public. Failing to do so risks leaving the government out of step with the public as we head towards the next general election.

Cite this publication

Buzelli L, Cameron G, Duxbury K, Gardner T, Rutherford S, Williamson S, Alderwick H. Public perceptions of health and social care: what the new government should know. The Health Foundation; 2022 (https://doi.org/10.37829/HF-2022-P11).

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