NHS at 70: Public perceptions

To mark the 70th anniversary of the NHS, a Poll was conducted for the Health Foundation in partnership with The King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Here are some of the headline findings:

What does the future look like for the NHS?
Only one in five people (20%) feel that the NHS will remain free at the point of use in 70 years’ time, while 77% predict there will be some level of change – either having to pay for services, or predicting that the NHS won’t exist at all.

Is more money needed for the NHS?
The majority of people (79%) agree that the NHS is currently underfunded, and more than half (55%) strongly agree this is the case.

There is no clear consensus among the general public as to how to fund an increase to NHS spending – just over half (54%) are in favour of either an additional tax earmarked specifically for the NHS, or an increase to existing taxation.

Are we expecting too much of the NHS?
The public overwhelmingly feel the responsibility for staying healthy lies with the individual – 97% say this, compared with 75% who place similar levels of responsibility on the food and drinks industry, 67% with the NHS, and 62% with government.

That being said, people do still support government interventions around public health – the most popular being the introduction of the smoking ban in public spaces (supported by 72%).

How do the public feel about social care funding?
Overall the public are somewhat split regarding the current system for payment of social care – 44% feel means testing is unfair, while 38% say the opposite.

If the government were to increase spending on social care then, as with NHS spending, the public are most likely to support this being done through tax increases (51% saying this).

How will new technology affect the NHS and health care?
There is limited knowledge of how various organisations use anonymised health data for research – nearly two in five (37%) say they know either a great deal or a fair amount about how the NHS uses such data.

There appears to be a fairly high level of scepticism about the benefits of a range of machine learning possibilities – for instance, while 44% believe the benefits of computers analysing medical records in diagnosing patients would outweigh the risks, three in ten (29%) feel the opposite.

There is more positivity towards the use of video consultations when getting medical advice – this is the same whether it be a consultation with their own GP or with a GP they do not already know. Nearly two thirds of people (63%) are willing to use a video consultation with their own GP, compared with 71% if the GP was someone they didn’t already know.

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