Primary care/general practice

Patients want primary care prioritisation and higher taxes to fund NHS, public polling shows

New research has revealed that the public want the government to prioritise primary care over hospitals and would be in favour of higher taxation to boost NHS funding.

The findings come from polling conducted by the Health Foundation along with Ipsos UK on what the public thinks about the NHS in England.

The study showed that, if the NHS’s budget is not increased, three in five (60%) believe the government should focus on using funds to improve services like general practice and dentistry. This is double (29%) the number who would prioritise access to hospitals.

Just under half (47%) of those polled would prefer to see an increase in taxes to maintain current NHS levels.

This is opposed to slightly more than one in 10 (11%) who would elect to cut spending on other public services to maintain NHS standards, and slightly fewer than one in 10 (9%) that would reduce the level of NHS services to avoid increasing taxes.

“As we approach the general election, it is vital that the political parties have a deep understanding of what the public wants and expects,” explained the Health Foundation’s assistance policy director, Tim Gardner.

“The public clearly supports the need for greater investment in primary and community care to help our growing, ageing population to live healthier lives, as well as to help people manage illness better and ease the burden on stretched NHS hospitals.”

The public’s support of the NHS’s core foundations also remains strong, with the vast majority agreeing that the NHS should:

  • continue being free at the point of delivery (88%);
  • provide a comprehensive service available to everyone (84%); and
  • be funded primarily via taxation (83%).

This is all while members of the public harbour significant amounts of mistrust in the way the government has run the NHS, with only one in 10 (9%) agreeing that current policymakers have made the right decisions for the health service. This is in addition to over half (54%) believing that the standard of care delivered by NHS services will worsen in the coming year.

Tim added: “With such low confidence in the government’s handling of the NHS, the next administration must swiftly restore public confidence and be transparent about the challenges it faces.”

Responding to the findings, NHS Providers’ CEO, Sir Julian Hartley, said: "Leaders across the NHS know they face an uphill battle to restore public satisfaction in the NHS with survey after survey revealing patients' concerns about standards and access to health care.

"They will be deeply worried that more than half of the people surveyed believe the standard of care provided by NHS services will worsen in the coming year.”

He added: "With a general election fast approaching, it's vital any future government commits to working with the NHS to expand primary and community care services and funding so that more patients can be cared for closer to home.

"By doing so, the government and NHS can make the whole health and care system work better, become more sustainable, and help create the 'next generation' NHS we all want to see."

Image credit: iStock

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NHE May/June 2024

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