Beyond the polls: what’s the patients’ view on priorities for the Health Secretary?
14 June 2017
You may feel that you have just made a tough choice at the ballot box. The reality is, for those working in the NHS, tough choices are part and parcel of a day job which is tiring but inspiring. Healthcare isn’t standing still - new breakthroughs, new technologies, growing patient expectations continue to raise the bar. And patients’ sense of what better health and care looks like today will continue to shift.
This is why we have commissioned a series of four polls over the past six months bringing the patients’ voice to decision makers and shapers within the NHS.
Most recently, we were keen to know what the public’s expectations are for the NHS beyond polling day and what they see as the priorities for Jeremy Hunt, as Secretary of State for Health - to help understand what patients and taxpayers feel.
We have surveyed UK patients following last week’s election result and have taken their viewpoints to Confed17, the annual NHS Confederation Conference taking place in Liverpool today where we are asking commissioners and providers across the UK for their perspectives too.
Paying for the NHS: When asked about how the NHS should be funded, the majority of the public (66%) said they would be happy to pay more tax if it meant the quality of the NHS improved. This varied in age with 76% of the 65+ age group agreeing, compared to 61% of those aged 18-24 and 56% of those aged 35-44 - perhaps unsurprising given the ageing population.
This view chimes with our previous polling and also surveys from ComRes in 2014 and 2015, which found half of those surveyed said they would be prepared to pay more tax to help fund the NHS.
Charging for the NHS: The public were also prepared to contemplate options beyond taxation to invest in health services. When thinking about alternative options to fund the NHS, charging for missed appointments is seen as the most acceptable with (62%) prepared to see this considered.
There is less support for charging some health services with just with just one in five of the public in favour of this. Almost three quarters (73%) of the public say that it should not be possible for anyone to pay for a GP appointment to get a faster service, perhaps reflecting on what’s considered fair and equitable.
Some of the questions posed required the public to trade off options, in recognition of the finite resources and tough choices on the table for those working and leading the NHS. For example:
Staffing the NHS: 53% of patients feel that hiring more staff should be the focus rather than paying existing staff more.
Accessing the NHS: Just over half (53%) of the public prioritise funding for hospitals over GP surgeries.
What’s apparent is the public wants to see improvements in health services and understand change and trade offs are needed if the NHS is to meet this objective and close its funding gap. I’m looking forward to hearing the perspectives of NHS commissioners and providers - and the Health Secretary himself at Confed17 this week. A general election is a timely reminder that the future of NHS is in all of our hands.