With NHS in Crisis, Majority of Britons Think Patients Could be Getting Better, Timelier Care

April 29, 2023
R&WS Research Team
GB Politics | Health | Healthcare | NHS | UK Government

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In 2017, the US-based Commonwealth fund ranked the National Health Service as the top ranked out of eleven major healthcare systems in the world. Six years later, having already been battered by a once in a century pandemic, the NHS finds itself experiencing what the Institute for Government recently called its “worst crisis in a generation.”

More than seven million patients in England—12% of the entire English population—are now on waiting lists for elective treatments. Ambulance response times have soared. And retaining staff has become increasingly difficult, as growing numbers of frontline NHS workers look for less stressful and better paying jobs elsewhere.  

All this has fuelled talk of a “collapsing” health service, including abroad, with the Wall Street Journal, for example, being moved to ask in February “Why Is the U.K’s Free Healthcare Service Falling Apart?”

Last week, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies asked British voters a range of questions about their views on the NHS as well as the recent pay dispute that has arisen between nurses and the Government.

Overall, 63% of Britons believe that most patients at the NHS could be getting better care, with only 30% taking the view that most NHS patients are getting the best care possible.

Majorities in every age cohort believe NHS patients could be getting better care, including 69% of those aged 45-to-54, and 67% of those between 55 and 64.

A similarly overwhelming majority (68%) believe most patients at the NHS are not getting the care they need as soon as possible, against only 26% who believe that they are. Majorities in every age group also believe the care patients are receiving is not being delivered in as timely a fashion as possible, including more than 7-in-10 voters aged between 45 and 55 (78%), 55 and 64 (77%), and 65+ (71%).

Recent statistics from NHS England show that one in every ten people arriving in A&E are now waiting more than 12 hours before being admitted, transferred or discharged. The target for such a decision is four hours.

Asked to apportion blame for this state of affairs, a majority of voters in England say both the Government (72%) and NHS senior managers (61%) are either ‘significantly’ or ‘fairly’ to blame for lengthening A&E wait times. 63% of 2019 Conservative voters hold the current Government which they elected to office either ‘significantly’ or ‘fairly’ to blame for the situation.

The stresses in the NHS are being exacerbated by the on-going strike action by nurses and junior doctors over their pay and conditions. 72% of voters recently stated that ending the strikes should be a high priority for the Government.

While junior doctors are holding out for a 35% wage increase—a proposal the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, has called “not fair or reasonable”—the Royal College of Nursing recently rejected (narrowly) the offer of a 5% wage increase from 2023/24.

56% of the public—including a plurality of 48% of 2019 Conservative voters—support the rejection by members of the RCN of the Government’s proposed 5% pay increase, with only 1-in-5 voters (20%) opposed to their rejection of the offer.

However, separate from the decision of the RCN to reject the Government’s offer, a narrow plurality of 45% of voters think a 5% wage increase would represent a fair settlement to the dispute, while 43% think it would not. 

Among those who believe a 5% wage increase would not represent a fair settlement to the dispute, an overwhelming 91% do so because they think 5% is too small an offer to be fair.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Follow us on Twitter

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