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New research reveals that the public do not realise the full extent of the NHS funding crisis

This July marked the 70th anniversary of the NHS and only the month before, the Prime Minister gifted the health service an early birthday present of an extra £20.5 billion investment. The then Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said:

“This historic long-term funding boost recognises the superhuman efforts made by staff over the last few years to maintain services in the face of rapidly growing demand. But it also presents a big opportunity for the NHS to write an entirely new chapter in its history.”

However, new research from the Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP) and Populus shows that the public are unaware of the extent of the NHS cash shortfall and struggle with the idea that the extra funding promised would be insufficient given the increasing demand pressures on the NHS.

Populus conducted a day-long deliberative event with fifty members of the general public to understand where the public thinks the extra money promised by government should be spent. This research formed part of CPP’s 12-month inquiry on health and social care, alongside its quantitative analysis, Diagnosis Critical.

Throughout the day, participants were asked a series of questions about health and social care funding and reform. In discussion, the public felt that the NHS could get better value by reducing waste and cutting numbers of non‐clinical staff. Reducing reliance on agency workers and restricting use of NHS services for non‐UK citizens were most commonly cited ways to find further savings.

After deliberation, participants were asked to vote on where to spend additional government investment: should it be spent on improving health and social care services, on keeping people healthy throughout their lives, or on a combined approach? The majority of participants voted for a combined approach. However, when forced to decide between the two options, most suggested the money should be spent on health and social care services. While there was recognition that community services and social/economic infrastructure were important for improving people’s health, and that prevention was important, there was a sense amongst the participants that this was already happening and so did not require prioritisation. They also believed that many community activities were not within the government or NHS’s remit.

Charlotte Alldritt, Director of CPP, draws attention to the fact that the public expect to see tangible results from extra funding injected into the NHS:

“It’s abundantly clear that the public will not accept that any new money injected into the NHS simply allows the service to stand still. They expect to see new facilities, with world-class equipment and wards run by well-paid nursing NHS staff.”

It was clear from discussions that there is a genuine worry among the public about the real-life impacts that an insufficiently funded NHS would have on their own health and wellbeing.


CPP and Populus conducted a one-day deliberative forum in Watford (Borehamwood) on 6 August 2018.

Participants were recruited from areas local to Watford to ensure the 50 participants were broadly representative of the GB population in terms of:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Socio-economic grade (SEG)

  • Ethnicity

  • Urban/rural spread

Participants were also recruited to ensure:

  • An even split of Leave and Remain voters at the 2016 EU referendum

  • A mix of parties voted for at the 2017 General Election

Exclusions were made to ensure that:

  • No participant was a medical professional

  • None worked for the NHS

  • No participant regularly used the NHS (i.e. not more than once a month) or had a chronic illness for which they needed regular treatment

Celia Roberts

Celia joined Populus in 2014 as a Research Executive and has since been promoted to Consultant. Since joining Populus, she has managed a number of different research projects for some of Populus’s biggest accounts including BT, Sainsbury’s and the Premier League. As part of her work for the Premier League, she has co-ordinated both domestic and international research among fans, most recently organising a six-market series of focus groups in Southeast Asia.  Celia graduated from the University of Exeter and holds a degree in English and Spanish. As part of her degree she spent a year abroad living and working in Madrid. In 2016, Celia completed the Market Research Society Advanced Certificate, for which she received a distinction.

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