The NHS is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year and is facing more challenges than ever. Funding issues, staff shortages and a chronic flu epidemic this winter have placed the health service under severe strain. Demand for hospital beds saw patients left out in the corridors, where A&E chiefs warned Prime Minister Theresa May they were dying prematurely.
Here at SurveyGoo, we wanted to uncover the public’s attitude towards the NHS at this time of rolling crises. We wanted to know if people believe the health service really is struggling and perhaps on its last legs — as US President Donald Trump has said — and what underlying causes they think might be behind the NHS’ seemingly perennial woes.
All this comes at a time when the NHS is suffering a shortfall of around 40,000 nurses around the country and when there is more staff leaving the health service than accepting new jobs with it. In some cases, this is due to Brexit and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the UK’s departure from the European Union in 2019. The NHS said that around 10,000 of its staff from EU countries, including doctors and nurses, have left since the tumultuous vote in 2016.
A majority of people (59.9%) we polled for our survey on the NHS agreed that it is indeed facing a worse crisis than previous years. A total of 21.9% didn’t believe it was any worse than past years, while 18.1% didn’t know. As for why the NHS is under strain, most respondents (31.4%) said there was too much demand, while 25.6% said management was the problem and budgets were not being properly allocated. Others (15.8%) agreed that the NHS was operating on an outdated model and needed radical change.
Despite flu headlines dominating the media throughout the Christmas and New Year period, with dire warnings of its voracity and risk of death, just 8.1% of those who took part in the SurveyGoo poll believed this was the reason for the NHS being inundated this winter. Cutbacks due to austerity measures was another reason for the NHS’ troubles, with 15.8% agreeing that this was a major issue for the embattled health service.
To solve the difficulties at the NHS, almost no one (3.7%) believed it should be privatised, and 18.2% thought its funding should be boosted with contributions from National Insurance tax. However, most (38.2%) held the view that the health service should be run more efficiently, thereby delivering significant savings, and that its management should be reformed. A majority of people (36.8%) agreed that the NHS should have specific charges for some patients — perhaps mindful of the high cost of lifestyle-related conditions and diseases, such as diabetes and various cancers. Just over 60% of people said they would definitely be prepared to pay more tax if it went on the NHS, 24% said maybe they would and 15.9% said they would not pay more tax, even if it was funnelled to the NHS.
We also asked respondents if they “love the NHS” and 41.1% strongly agreed with the sentiment, 38.4% agreed, 9.8% disagreed with it and 4.4% strongly disagreed. Some people just didn’t know either way (6.1%). Again, views were overwhelmingly positive about the NHS as a global leader in its field, with 41.4% strongly agreeing that it’s “one of the best healthcare organisations in the world”. Conversely, though, asked if the NHS used to be a world leader in healthcare but no longer is, 61.5% agreed and 28.9% disagreed.
Most people, however, (43% agreeing, 10% strongly agreeing and 10% disagreeing) believed that if the NHS is to survive, it must undergo radical and urgent reform. A majority (41.1%) also thought that if things don’t improve at the NHS, it will indeed go broke — compared to 15% who disagreed that this might happen. Overall, 34.4% of respondents rated the NHS as “very good”, 31.5% as “excellent”, 21.6% as “good”, 7.8% as “fair” and 4.3% thought the services provided by the NHS were “poor”.
As for Trump’s comment that the NHS is “going broke and not working“, most people (60.9%) believed that while the NHS is in trouble, the controversial American leader had no business criticising the UK health service — and 14.7% said he was right to do so.
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For more information on the poll and summary results:
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