NHS may have to charge for care within next decade, three in four Brits fear
Most Britons fear the NHS will have to make them pay for care within the next 10 years, a poll suggests.
This is despite healthcare making more than half of Britons proud to be British, ranking higher than British history, democracy or the royal family.
The survey of nearly 2,500 Britons found that only 25 per cent believe the NHS will be largely free at the point of use by 2033.
Just over half (51 per cent) believe they will be charged for some services they currently receive for free, while 13 per cent predicted most services will be charged for and 7 per cent expect to be charged for all NHS services .
The poll, commissioned by think tank the Health Foundation, comes amid record waiting lists for NHS care, overstretched ambulance and emergency services and crucial deadlines for cancer care for patients being missed.
More than three-quarters of Britons predict the NHS will charge them for currently free services within the next decade, and a similar percentage expect the healthcare system to be unwilling to meet rising demand, according to a commissioned poll of the Health Foundation
Despite the bleak outlook, the vast majority of Britons said healthcare made them proud to be British
When asked why, the NHS’s principle of providing free/affordable care was considered the highest source of pride
Of those surveyed, those voting Conservative were most likely to predict that the NHS will charge people for using services, with 66 per cent
By comparison, 51 per cent of Labor supporters predicted the same.
Conservative and Labor supporters also disagreed over what was to blame for the NHS being in crisis.
Tory voters were more likely to blame mismanagement and ineffectiveness of the NHS, with 43 and 32 per cent respectively pointing to these factors.
Labor supporters instead said No 10 and the ministers’ cuts were to blame, with 58 and 52 per cent respectively pointing to a lack of NHS funding and government policy.
Regardless of how they voted, eight out of ten people said the NHS needed an increase in funding.
Increased taxes were the most popular method of bringing in this extra money, borrowing more or making cuts from other governments, with the most popular tax being a specific NHS tax (31 per cent).
The vast majority of those surveyed also did not think the NHS was ready for the future.
Overall, 77 percent said healthcare was not ready to meet the demands of an aging population and 51 percent said it was unprepared to integrate new technology like AI.
Despite the uncertainty about the future, the poll also revealed how much Britons were proud of Britain’s healthcare system.
Overall, 54 per cent of people said the NHS made them proud to be British, easily beating the country’s history (34 per cent) and the Royals (23 per cent).
Of those for whom the NHS was a source of pride, 55 per cent said they were most proud of the healthcare system that provides free and affordable healthcare.
Other main sources of pride were the NHS’s treatment of equals (36 per cent) and the quality of care and skill of its medics (14 per cent).
Tim Gardner, the Health Foundation’s deputy director for policy, said the poll showed how important the NHS was to Britons and how fearful they were for its future.
“After 75 years, the NHS remains fundamental to what it means to be British – but there is great public concern about whether the principles on which healthcare is based will continue to exist,” he said.
The number of people waiting for routine hospital treatment in England rose to a record 7.42 million (red line) in April, figures show. More than 370,000 people lined up for routine surgeries, such as hip replacements, waited more than a year (yellow bars)
NHS data on A&E performance in May shows that three quarters of emergency room attendants (74 per cent) were seen within four hours (red line). Meanwhile, 31,494 patients seeking help in emergency departments had to wait more than 12 hours – equivalent to more than 1,000 patients per day (yellow bars)
Ambulances took an average of 32 minutes and 24 seconds to respond to category two calls, such as burns, epilepsy and strokes. This is almost twice as long as the 18-minute target and almost four minutes longer than a month earlier (red bars)
Six out of ten cancer patients started treatment within two months of an urgent referral from their GP (red line). This is lower than in March and well below the NHS target of 85 per cent. It means that 5,178 patients (blue bars) had to wait longer for surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy
“People’s concerns about the current state of health care should not be interpreted as a hunger for fundamental fundamental change.
“Our polls consistently show that the public wants better healthcare that can respond to changing health needs and continue to provide equal access for all, and supports the investment and policy action needed to make that happen.”
Mr Gardner added that the government’s recently released NHS workforce strategy should be a starting point for sustainable ‘investment and improvement – not a one-off’.
The NHS’s 75th birthday comes at a time when many parts of the healthcare system are struggling to keep up with demand.
Official data shows that the number of people waiting for routine hospital treatment in England rose to a record 7.42 million in April, figures show.
Of these, more than 370,000 people have been waiting in line for routine surgeries, such as hip replacements, for more than a year.
NHS data on A&E performance in May shows that just three-quarters of emergency room attendants (74 per cent) were seen within four hours, compared to more than 90 per cent a decade ago.
And ambulances took an average of 32 minutes and 24 seconds to respond to Category 2 calls such as burns, epilepsy and strokes, nearly twice the 18-minute target for such emergencies.
In addition, only six in ten cancer patients started treatment within two months of an urgent GP referral below the NHS target of 85 per cent.
It’s not the first time the prospect of paying for NHS care has been highlighted.
Other similar ideas, such as controversially taxing wealthier Britons to use health care or scrapping some exemptions such as free prescriptions for pensioners, have been touted before.