Key points

  • There is strong support for the principles of the NHS across all sections of British society. Of those surveyed, 89% agree that the government should support a national health system that is tax funded, free at the point of use and provides comprehensive care for all citizens.
  • 43% of respondents think the NHS has neither improved nor deteriorated over the 5 years of the current parliament, while 26% think it has got better and 28% that it has got worse. UKIP supporters are most likely to believe that the NHS has deteriorated (41%), compared with 24–28% of supporters of the other three main political parties.
  • While people support the funding principles of the NHS, they are much less attached to the idea of the NHS as their preferred provider of care. 39% of respondents prefer their care to be delivered by an NHS organisation, but even more people (43%) do not have a preference between receiving NHS-funded care from an NHS organisation, a private company, or a non-profit body such as a charity or social enterprise. However, responses vary markedly between generations, with younger generations less committed to the idea of the NHS as a provider of care than the older ones.
  • Labour supporters are most likely to have a preference for NHS provision of their care but even then, more than half (52%) either do not have a preference or would prefer a private or non-profit provider. Conservative supporters (23%) are more likely than Labour supporters (13%) to prefer private provision, while Liberal Democrats (55%) are most likely not to have a preference.
  • Among those who say that they would prefer to be treated by a private or non-profit provider for their NHS-funded care (18%), around half would still have this preference even if it meant their local NHS hospital or clinic was at risk of being closed as a result of people using non-NHS providers.
  • Just over half of the respondents (51%) think the NHS wastes money and (perhaps as a result) a majority (58%) would not support further cuts to other public services in order to provide additional funding for the NHS. Older generations are much more likely to think that the NHS wastes money (62% for those born before 1945 and 65% for those born between 1945 and 1965, compared with 51% for those born between 1966 and 1979 and just 31% for those born after 1980).
  • Most people are willing to travel further away from home for higher quality specialist and complex care (86%). However, only 42% are willing to travel further for higher quality A&E services.

This report analyses the results of a series of questions about the NHS that were included in the 2014 British Social Attitudes Survey, undertaken by NatCen Social Research.

The survey took place in late summer/early autumn 2014 and 2,878 adults from across Great Britain were surveyed.

A pdf of slides containing all the charts and tables from this work is available to download (see Downloads section below).


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