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NHS Poll: Can it cope, and how should we fund it?

Chris Holbrook Find Out Now Market Research

Chris Holbrook

1st Feb, 2022 | 10 mins read

An exclusive poll for The Mirror by Find Out Now and Electoral Calculus surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,087 GB Adults on 26 January 2022.

The poll asked GB residents various questions about the NHS and funding of healthcare. We asked whether people had confidence in the NHS, what are the causes of NHS problems, and how they think healthcare should be paid for.

In summary:

  • 36% are not very confident the NHS can deliver non-emergency care
  • 23% are not very confident the NHS can deliver emergency care
  • The public think the main causes of NHS problems are lack of money (61%), government incompetence (52%) and too much bloat (45%)
  • Nearly a third of Conservative voters agree that government incompetence is a problem for the health service
  • 64% think healthcare should continue to be paid for by general taxation
  • But 14% would favour a compulsory social insurance scheme
  • Nine per cent of Conservative voters would let those without health insurance go without treatment

Q1. How confident are you that the NHS can provide the everyday non-emergency health care you and your family need?

ResponsePercentage of respondents
Very confident15%
Somewhat confident40%
Not very confident22%
Not confident at all14%
Don’t know6%
Prefer not to say2%

A clear majority (55%) of respondents are at least somewhat confident that the NHS can provide non-emergency care, but 36% of people, or more than one person in three, are not very confident about it.

Of those who answered “Not very confident” or “Not confident at all”:

  • Age gap with 45% of those aged over 65 vs only 23% of those under 25
  • Not much variation by party affiliation, Con 38% vs Lab 34%
  • Geography, 42% in Scotland, vs 32% in London

Of those who answered “Very” or “Somewhat” confident:

  • Age gap with 66% of those under 25, vs 51% of those over 65

Q2. How confident are you that the NHS can provide emergency care to you and your family if needed?

The question was similar to the first question by focused on emergency care rather than non-emergency care.

ResponsePercentage of respondents
Very confident25%
Somewhat confident45%
Not very confident14%
Not confident at all9%
Don’t know4%
Prefer not to say3%

A very large majority (70%) of the public has confidence in NHS emergency services, though there are 23% of people (or over one in five) who don’t have much confidence.

There was again a difference in views between the generations, with 30% of those aged over 65 lacking confidence, compared with only 16% of those under 25.

Q3. Which factors do you think cause problems in the NHS? (Please select all that apply)

Respondents were allowed to select multiple answers from a list of nine options, so percentages add up to more than 100%. Responses are sorted by popularity.

ResponsePercentage of respondentsCon votersLab Voters
Lack of money61%46%76%
Government incompetence52%31%73%
Too much ‘bloat’ (unnecessary managers, processes, etc.)45%64%36%
Too many re-organisations20%22%19%
NHS is too large to be managed properly18%27%12%
Publicly-run bodies are often inefficient17%27%8%
Patients do not have enough power9%8%8%
Difficult trade unions7%13%2%
None – the NHS has no major problems1%1%1%
Prefer not to say7%5%5%

The public are quite clear that the three big problems with the NHS are a lack of money (supported by more than three voters out of five), government incompetence (over half of voters) and too much ‘bloat’ (nearly half of voters).

Other explanations were less popular, such as free-market criticisms about state-run monoliths, lack of consumer choice and restrictive trade union practices.

But only 1% of people thought that the NHS has no major problems.

There were differences in opinion by party affiliation (according to vote at the last election), with 64% of Conservatives blaming ‘bloat’ compared with 36% of Labour voters. And 73% of Labour votes blame government incompetence, but only 31% of Conservative voters agree.

Q4. How should healthcare be paid for?

This question asked the public to think more broadly about how healthcare should be paid for. Three models were presented: taxpayer pays (eg UK), social insurance (used in much of Europe), or private insurance (eg USA).

ResponsePercentage of respondents
Mostly by the government through taxation64%
Mostly by compulsory social insurance paid by employers, employees and pensioners14%
Mostly by voluntary private insurance paid by employers or individuals3%
Don’t know14%
Prefer not to say5%

A large majority of the public wants to keep the current taxpayer-based system. Only one voter in seven would like a social insurance model, and only a tiny fraction is attracted by US-style healthcare.

There is fairly good consensus across parties with 60% of Conservative voters favouring the status quo, compared with 74% of Labour voters.

Q5. If insurance was used to pay for healthcare, what should happen to people who don’t have insurance and can’t afford to get it?

Finally, we asked our respondents, assuming there was an insurance system for healthcare, what should happen to people who couldn’t get insured.

ResponsePercentage of respondents
The government should pay, from taxation, so that everyone is insured63%
Healthcare should be denied5%
Charities should pay3%
Hospitals should treat them for free, and charge other patients more to make up2%
Don’t know21%
Prefer not to say5%

Another clear majority (63%) said that the government should cover the uninsured (as is common in Europe). A flinty 5% said that the uninsured should go without healthcare, and there were only very small numbers in favour of charitable solutions or free hospital treatment.

Looking at party differences, 55% of Conservatives believe in the government insurance backstop compared with 77% of Labour voters. And 9% of Conservative voters are happy for the uninsured to go without healthcare, compared with only 2% of Labour voters.

“Many see the NHS as the backbone of the nation, so it’s surprising to see such a substantial lack of confidence in it. This suggests that big changes are needed, particularly in funding and how it is managed.”

Chris Holbrook, CEO of Find Out Now

“People blame a lack of resources and government incompetence for NHS failings. People are generally supportive of the NHS and its financing, but their confidence in the system is fraying. This is further unwelcome news for a government which is under pressure on other fronts.”

Martin Baxter, CEO of Electoral Calculus

Technical Details

Find Out Now polled 2,087 GB adults online on 26 January 2022. The sample was weighted to be representative by gender, age, social grade, other demographics and past voting patterns.

Find Out Now and Electoral Calculus are both members of the British Polling Council and abide by its rules.

Electoral Calculus

Electoral Calculus is a political consultancy specialising in quantitative analysis and modelling for electoral and other market research projects. Its pre-poll prediction for the 2019 general election was the most accurate published forecast. It was founded by Martin Baxter, its CEO.

Electoral Calculus is a member of the British Polling Council.

Photo by Ian Taylor on Unsplash