Public Health

15.02.17

NHS tops Brexit as biggest issue facing the country, survey finds

Almost half of the British public views the NHS as the biggest issue facing the country right now, the latest Ipsos MORI index has today revealed.

Around 49% of the public now holds this view, rising nine percentage points since December and jumping to its highest level since 2003.

The proportion who view the NHS as the country’s biggest problem is high in almost all of the demographic groups who were surveyed, and spiked amongst women (54%) and over 65s (55%).

NHS is also the biggest issue across all social grade and age brackets, apart from those aged 55+ in the social grade ABC1 – this group said that NHS was on level with Brexit in terms of importance.

Commenting on the findings, Chris Ham, chief executive of the King's Fund said:"These results show the public are increasingly concerned about the pressures facing the NHS and should be a wakeup call for ministers.

He went on to say: “The government needs to be honest about what the health service can deliver with its budget. If it wants to maintain current standards, it will need to look again at NHS funding in future financial statements. In particular, the pressures will peak in 2018/19 and 2019/20, when there is almost no planned growth in real-terms NHS funding.”

This research follows NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey conducted last week, which found that satisfaction with the NHS had dropped by 5% over the past year and dissatisfaction with the health service had jumped by 8% to almost one in four people. In total, only 60% of the public were satisfied with the NHS, a drop from the all-time high of 70% in the 2010 survey.

Prof John Appleby, chief economist of the King’s Fund, which helped produce the NatCen survey, argued it was also “no surprise” to find that this dissatisfaction was largely driven by waiting times for appointments and perceptions of underfunding and staff shortages.

“What's gone wrong is the public's perception of the NHS under growing pressure. Money is tight, waiting times are getting longer, people are concerned that when they need the NHS it might not be there for them,” he added.

IPSOS Mori’s data from this week’s survey was collected from a quota sample of 960 adults aged 18+ who were interviewed in home last month.

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