Concerns over future of NHS services hit record levels in over a decade

Public concerns over the state and future of the NHS has hit record levels, with the highest-ever number of people expecting health services to deteriorate, research by Ipsos MORI has found.

The study, which looked at people’s perception of economic cuts and their effects on local services, concluded that the number of people concerned with the state service’s future is at its worst since 2002 – comprising more than half of those surveyed for the first time ever.

There are also indications that people think GP surgeries are getting worse, with around 38% of respondents thinking general practice services have declined over the past two years compared with 28% of those surveyed in 2013. There has been a similar fall amongst service users.

People are also more dissatisfied with the quality of hospitals and care for the elderly, with roughly 35% of respondents believing they are worse than they were two years ago.

The study also looked at other local services and the general public outlook on the economic effect of austerity. Although it concluded that people seem to be less affected by spending cuts now than in 2012, research also found that people were growingly concerned about the future of public services.

Bobby Duffy, MD of the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute, said: “The government’s arguments about the need for austerity do now seem to have taken a firm hold with the majority of the public, as people appear to be adjusting their expectations, and – for many services – don’t seem to be noticing a significant direct impact on service quality.

“So the chancellor will take a good deal of confidence into the comprehensive Spending Review – although one area where the government needs to tread very carefully is health services. Fear for the future of the NHS is at the highest level we’ve measured, and the risks are very real for the government if they are seen to damage one of the UK’s most treasured institutions.”

But a Department of Health spokesperson said: “The vast majority of people are happy with the care they receive - last year public confidence in the NHS in England went up by 5%, its second highest level ever, and dissatisfaction fell to its lowest ever level. 

“We believe in the values of the NHS and are committed to continuing to improve the quality of care patients receive, that's why we have increased the NHS budget by £10bn and backed the NHS's own plan for the future.”

The data for the study is taken from two surveys, each including interviews of more than 1,000 British adults between August and September.

(Top image c. Sean Dempsey/PA Images)


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