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The truth about public attitudes to the NHS

Politicians debate it and more than 64.6 million UK residents rely on it – the NHS is one of the cornerstones of modern Britain; a much-loved organisation which invokes opinions from people from all sides of the political spectrum. From Prime Minister’s Questions to Leave campaign bus slogans, the NHS is never far from public discourse.

In England, the NHS deals with 1 million patients every 36 hours and it employs more than 1.5 million people worldwide. New Populus research takes a closer look at public opinion on the world’s largest single-payer healthcare system.

What does the public really think?

To mark 70 years of the NHS, Hanover is undertaking regular tracking of public opinion regarding the NHS, exploring satisfaction and attitudes of the standard of care provided. The first instalment of the Hanover/Populus research is available now, and the findings reveal strong headline satisfaction levels with the NHS.

The organisation, which in 2014 was rated the best system in comparison to 10 others by the Commonwealth Fund, enjoys a fair level of public satisfaction despite a perceived lack of improvement.

Over two thirds (71%) of the UK public agree that the NHS is a world-class health service, and 68% agree that the NHS provides comprehensive and accessible high quality care. Public opinion stalls when it comes to improvements. Just 25% of those surveyed believe services have improved over the last five years; a total of 39% disagreed that they had improved at all.

When it comes to GP surgeries, over half (58%) agree that the NHS provides high quality GP care that is easy and convenient to access. The outlook is gloomier for A&E departments. The research shows that just 25% of the UK public agree that NHS A&E departments are suitably staffed to deliver high quality and timely care.

The NHS generation gap

The findings highlight differences between the age groups when it comes to opinions on the NHS. Those aged 65+ are most satisfied with the NHS (65% agreeing) while the 18-24 year old age group is the second most satisfied with the NHS.

Social care is a worry for older generations, with over a third (39%) of over 65’s disagreeing that adult social care services provide a good standard of care for those who need it. Overall, 37% of people believe that adult social care services are inadequate, compared to 25% who think they do provide a good standard of care.

And what about the NHS of the future?

As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, attention may turn to the NHS and how it could be affected. Populus research shows that 38% of the public agree that the impact of Brexit on the NHS will be negative, with 26% disagreeing, and 16% of the public saying they did not know.

View the full Data Tables here.

Populus is relied upon by businesses, research agencies and government bodies as a cost-effective way of uncovering the insight they need to target even the most hard-to-reach groups in the UK and 75 other countries worldwide. Find out more by calling (0)20 7553 4149 or emailing info@populus.co.uk.


Populus interviewed a nationally representative sample of 2,183 UK adults aged 18+ from its online panel between 6 – 7 December 2017.  Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information at www.populus.co.uk.

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