Majority of the public support tax increases to pay for the NHS

Analysis, by The King’s Fund, of the latest data from the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey on public attitudes to NHS funding and quality of care, finds majority of the public support tax increases to pay for the NHS

The research brings to light public concern over the state of the NHS and a ‘growing consensus’ that the NHS is facing a funding crisis.

The research – undertaken as part of The King’s Fund’s project examining the changing relationship between the public and the NHS – analysed the latest data from the British Social Attitudes (BSA) which explored levels of dissatisfaction with the NHS and how these have changed over time and in relation to trends in NHS funding.

Some of the key findings from The King’s Fund analysis are as follows: 

  • The analysis shows that the public is increasingly anxious about the state of the NHS and that there is widespread support for tax rises to increase funding. This following the prime minister’s announcement of a long-term plan for the NHS will be published, backed by a multi-year funding settlement.
  • The percentage of respondents saying that the service faces a major or severe funding problem has increased by 14 percentage points since 2014 to 86% in 2017.
  • 61% of respondents support tax rises to increase NHS funding, an increase of 21 percentage points from 2014 and 12 percentage points from 2016; 35% support a separate tax that would go directly to the NHS and 26% would be happy to pay more through their existing taxes.
  • A majority of respondents support tax increases to pay for the NHS across all age and income groups, including 61% of the highest earners.
  • The proportion of the public who thought NHS care had got worse over the past five years has been steadily increasing since 2010, reaching 45% in 2017; just 17% thought that care had improved over the past five years, the lowest level in two decades.
  • In 2017, 56% of people expected standards of care to get worse over the next five years, an increase of 21 percentage points since 2014. Just 20% expected standards of care to improve.
  • 56% of Conservative Party supporters backed a tax rise to pay for the NHS, up from 33% in 2014. Support among Labour Party supporters stood at 68% in 2017.
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‘The last time we saw similar levels of public concern about the NHS was in the early 2000s and the Labour government responded by providing a significant funding increase for the NHS, which was sustained over a number of years,’ the report says.

Many of the reasons that the public are dissatisfied with the NHS, according to the BSA data, relate to the resources it has available and those who are dissatisfied are more likely to think the NHS is facing a ‘severe’ funding problem – yet they are no more likely to favour policy options directed at addressing this problem.

Read The King’s Fund analysis in full.

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