Poll suggests public wants additional health and care funding to go to emergency and mental health services

New polling suggests that the public wants emergency services and mental health care to have first call on any extra funding for health and care

The representative sample of public opinion follows what has been widely seen as the toughest winter on record for the NHS and comes ahead of a government commitment to increase NHS funding, expected in time for the NHS’S 70 anniversary.

The public also want to see community services, social care and services for children prioritised for any additional funding.

The exclusive poll was commissioned by NHS Providers, NHS Clinical Commissioners, the Royal College of Physicians and National Voices and conducted by Ipsos Mori. It was carried out ahead of a major debate being held this week to mark the NHS’ 70th anniversary.

The key findings from the poll are:

  • more than two out of three (68% respondents said urgent and emergency care such as A&E and ambulance services should be a priority for additional health and social care funding
  • investment in mental health services was the next main priority (58%) for additional spending
  • community and adult social care services and children’s services also scored highly with 40% of respondents selecting both as a priority
  • questioned about their concerns for non-emergency care, people prioritised quality of care (38%) and short waiting times (21%), ahead of being treated close to home (11%) and ability to choose a date for treatment (eight per cent).

The NHS at 70 debate, held in Central London, featured a panel of experts and commentators including the former head of the Number Ten Policy Unit, Camilla Cavendish, the former chief speechwriter for Tony Blair and Times columnist, Philip Collins, and Guardian health columnist Polly Toynbee.

Commenting on the findings, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery, said: “We have had a welcome commitment for more health and care funding from the prime minister as we approach the NHS’s 70th anniversary.

“Following the busiest winter on record for the NHS, it is clear that A&E and emergency services are perceived to be underfunded and overstretched by the public.

“These findings also show that properly funded mental health services are important to the public and the government must ensure its long-term plan for health and care reflects this.”

Julie Wood, chief executive of NHS Clinical Commissioners said:  “Mental health, social care, community and children’s services have all rightly been highlighted as priority areas for investment by the public. Alongside social care, the key will be how we balance these priorities, within the limited financial envelope, to provide a health and care system that delivers the best possible care for both our local patients and the wider population.”

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The chief executive of Ipsos MORI, Ben Page, said: “The public continue to show strong support for the NHS as it approaches its seventieth anniversary.

“However, there is real concern about the future funding of the NHS, and a majority agree it needs more money. If the NHS does receive more money, asked where it should go, the public prioritise A&E and emergency services – often the public face of the NHS – but also mental health services, often a Cinderella service. This suggests the public may have a more sophisticated understanding of the multiple challenges facing local health services. Either way, if government needs to raise taxes, spending it on the NHS is about the most popular thing they can do”.

RCP president Professor Jane Dacre said: “From the results of the poll we can see that people are very aware of the pinchpoints in the NHS where it is under the most pressure.  In addition to the public support for more funding, we need the NHS and social care to work together better to provide seamless care for patients, whether in hospitals or in the community.

Jeremy Taylor, chief executive of National Voices, the coalition of health and care charities, said:

“Seventy per cent of the NHS budget is now spent supporting people living with long-term conditions. The government’s promised funding plan must create an NHS that not only satisfies public expectations, but also meets the needs of patients and carers in 2018 and beyond.”

Responding to the NHS Providers public attitudes poll calling for prioritised investment in the NHS BMA consultants committee mental health lead Dr Andrew Molodynski said:

“Despite chronic underinvestment in the UK’s health infrastructure, especially in mental health services, this timely poll shows the majority of people are still satisfied with the standard of care they receive from the NHS. But people are rightly worried for its future, in this 70th anniversary year, and the appetite for further investment in mental health grows.

“Even though the government claims mental and physical health services are treated equally, mental healthcare has only seen a scattering of uplifts in particular services or areas. Children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are still not receiving the money they need to deal with increasing demand, to the point where most professionals feel funding levels have made them less able to do their job.

“These results are another reminder to the government that they must increase the support to mental health services to more closely match the burden of mental health problems in England.”

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