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 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.
With the 70th anniversary of the NHS approaching in July, funding remains in the news, with Theresa May coming under increasing pressure, including from within her own ranks to bring forward increases in NHS spending. We examine how public attitudes towards the NHS have shifted amid this context, in the latest instalment of the NHS health tracker.
Views on Brexit and the future
May’s health tracker found that the public is feeling less pessimistic about the likely impact of Brexit on the NHS, perhaps reflecting reports of increased long-term funding. In February, 37% agreed that Brexit was likely to have a negative impact on the NHS, with 29% disagreeing. In the latest tracker, we find an even split with 32% each way.
Indeed, this optimism is further reflected in the fact that 45% of people believe the NHS will “continue to provide a comprehensive service, free at the point of care, in 10 years’ time”. This is up from 39% in both January and February.
Performance Perceptions remain steady
In May, 61% of the public reported satisfaction with the NHS as a whole, broadly unchanged from earlier figures. However, the perception of particular services within the NHS remains low relative to this overall figure: only 21% agree that A&E services are suitably staffed (down from 23% in February); 28% agree that “[a]dult social care services provide a good standard of care to those who use it” (down from 29% in February).
However, there is more positive news in terms of primary care and GP care. In May, 72% agreed that the NHS provides “comprehensive and accessible high quality care”. Meanwhile, 60% said the same about GP care. These figures both represent small increases from our starting point in January (though the figure for GPs is down slightly from 61% in February).
Media coverage of a perceived winter crisis appears to have had little affect on the public’s satisfaction levels, with the number of those satisfied with the NHS growing slightly from 60% to 62% this month.
Perceptions of NHS structure and improvements have also held steady. Over a third (39%) agree that the NHS will continue to provide a comprehensive service free at the point of care in 10 years’ time. The number of respondents who agreed that NHS services had improved over the last 5 years remains the same at 25%.
The research shows that the public is concerned about A&E departments. The percentage of people who disagree that A&E departments are suitably staffed to deliver high-quality care increased by 4% this month (up to 59%).
The generation gap
February’s instalment of the Populus Hanover Health Tracker finds that overall satisfaction rates among older generations are remaining high. Over two thirds (68%) of those aged 65+ agree that they are satisfied with the service. Since our last update, there’s been a 16% increase in satisfaction levels among the 55-64 year old age group.
Of all respondents, just over a third (37%) say they agree that Brexit will have a negative impact on the NHS; 29% disagree. The sentiment is felt strongest among the younger generations, with over half (56%) of 18-24 year olds agreeing that Brexit will have a negative impact on the organisation. This goes against the general overall trend of optimism among this age group.
The outlook of those aged 55-64 has become more pessimistic than previously, rising from 28% to 31% agreeing that Brexit will have a negative impact on the NHS.
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.
Populus interviewed a nationally representative sample of 2,078 UK adults aged 18+ from its online panel between 11-13 May 2018. Populus previously interviewed a representative sample of 2,183 UK adults between 6-7 December 2017 and 2,071 UK adults between 29-30 January. 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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