This article was taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/sep/16/two-thirds-support-higher-taxes-to-fund-nhs
By: Denis Campbell Health Policy Editor
Amid growing concern about state of the health service, poll shows a willingness to contribute more
Two in three people are prepared to pay more tax in order to ensure the cash-strapped NHS has the money it needs to provide good care.
New polling for the King’s Fund thinktank found that two-thirds (66%) of the public are willing “to pay more taxes in order to maintain the level of spending needed” on the health service.
Only one in five (20%) would endorse cuts in spending on other services such as welfare and education so that the NHS could receive a boost to its budget. Even fewer – 10% – believe that the health service should reduce either its level of care or range of services to balance its books.
“Clearly the [rising] volume of noise around the problems the NHS is facing, and the warnings from within the health sector around inadequate funding, are increasingly cutting through to the public in a significant way,” said Dan Wellings, a senior policy analyst at the King’s Fund.
“The fact that two-thirds of the public are saying that they would pay more tax to fund it shows the strength of feeling around NHS funding. This finding comes at a time of unprecedented levels of public concern about the NHS’s future; pessimism about that is at a record level.”
The poll also showed a huge majority, 77%, believed the NHS to be “crucial to British society” and that it must be properly maintained.
Growing evidence about the extent of staff shortages across the NHS is likely to be a key influence on public thinking, added Wellings, who until April was head of insight and feedback for NHS England.
The Department of Health said: “It is encouraging to see that support for the NHS remains as high as ever and the public can be reassured that the government is committed to continued investment in the health service, including an extra £8bn over the next five years.”
The 66% backing readiness to pay more tax is one of the highest figures ever recorded since pollsters began asking voters that or a similar question.Two junior doctors raised concerns about patient safety after being left to look after 436 patients at Plymouth’s Derriford hospital on 2 May, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust disclosed last week.
Doctors, health unions, experts and opposition parties claim the NHS is in “crisis”, with hospitals and GP services unable to cope with the rising demand for care, because it has been starved of funds since 2010 and left dangerously short-staffed due to failed workforce planning. Despite that, public support for the NHS and its founding principles, of universal access and it being free to use, remains remarkably deep and resolute, according to the new findings. Surprisingly, even more 15- to 34-year-olds (81%) than those aged 55 or over (74%) said that the NHS was crucial and everything must be done to maintain it.
Ipsos Mori, which conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,151 people last month, found that: 77% of people believe that “the NHS is crucial to British society and we must do everything to maintain it”; only 23% think “the NHS was a great project but we probably can’t maintain it in its current form”; 67% believe the NHS should be free at the point of delivery and 65% think the NHS should provide a comprehensive service available to everyone. Other findings showed that: 62% believe the NHS should be funded primarily through taxation, not charges to access services or health insurance; 67% oppose rationing of care and want the NHS to make the same treatments and services available to everyone regardless of where they live.
The Department of Health spokesperson added: “Despite being busy, the NHS has been ranked by the independent Commonwealth Fund as the best, safest and most affordable healthcare system out of 11 wealthy nations.”
An NHS England spokesperson said: “Every year since the NHS was founded care provided has improved, whether it be for cancer, heart attacks or keyhole surgery. So as the NHS approaches its 70th anniversary it’s clear that the public’s support for it is as strong as ever.”