9 Jan 2018

The NHS, “the closest thing the English people have to a national religion”, has long enjoyed high levels of public satisfaction. But in a time of growing pressure on this most vaunted of national institutions, are the public starting to become more concerned about the future of the NHS?

To mark the 70th year of the NHS, Hanover will be undertaking regular tracking of public opinion to assess satisfaction with the NHS and attitudes on the standard of care provided. The first instalment of the Hanover/Populus poll, undertaken in the weeks before Christmas, sets a benchmark for the year ahead.

According to the poll, based on a representative sample of over 2000 UK adults, headline satisfaction levels with the NHS remain strong. However, on specific aspects of NHS care such as standards of A&E services, social care and access to medicines, the public are concerned or uncertain. Moreover, less than half of the public agreed that the NHS will still be free at point of care and comprehensive in 10 years’ time, while more people agreed than disagreed that the impact of Brexit will be negative.

Public satisfaction with the NHS remains high despite a perceived lack of improvement

In total 60% of the public are satisfied with the NHS, and 71% of the public agreed with the statement ‘the NHS is a world class health service’. However only 25% of respondents believe services have improved over the last five years, 39% of the public disagreed.

Satisfaction among older people remains high

Those aged 65+ are most satisfied with the NHS (68% of participants agreeing) versus just 53% of 34-44 year olds who are the least satisfied age cohort. Perhaps surprisingly, the 18-24 age group is the second most satisfied with the NHS.

Public confidence in long-term structure of care remains

A big majority of the public (68%) agreed that the NHS ‘provides comprehensive and accessible high quality care’, with only 13% disagreeing. When asked whether the NHS will continue to provide a comprehensive service, free at the point of care, in 10 years’ time, 39% of the public agreed, compared to 23% that disagreed. However, a large proportion of the public were unsure.

Concern over A&E services is high, but public broadly content with access to GP care

Only 25% of the public feel that NHS A&E departments are suitably staffed to deliver high quality and timely care, with 55% disagreeing.

On GP care, 58% of those surveyed agreed that ‘high quality GP care is easy and convenient to access’, with 23% disagreeing. 18-24 year olds and those aged 65+ have the highest perception of GP care (63% and 64%), with those in the 35-44 cohort having the lowest (51%).

Social care services a worry for older generations

Concerns over a ‘good standard of social care for people who need it’ transcend generations, geographies and social class, with 37% of people believing that adult social care services are inadequate, compared to 25% who think they do provide a good standard of care.

Public satisfaction with access to medicines is evenly split

When asked if ‘The NHS is able to ensure patients can access the latest medicines’ 39% of the public agreed, compared to 33% that disagreed.

Those aged 25-34 are most likely to agree the NHS ensures patient access to the latest medicines, with 48% supporting this statement, against just 35% of those aged 45+.

Clear doubts have emerged over impact of Brexit on the NHS

According to the poll 38% of the public agreed that the impact of Brexit on the NHS will be negative, with 26% disagreeing. 16% of the public did not know.

Unsurprisingly, this belief is strongest in younger generations and declines gradually with age: 56% of 18-24 year olds agreed that the impact would be negative, versus 49% of those in the 25-34 bracket, 41% (35-44), 34% (45-54), 28% (55-64) and 29% (65+). This belief is also greatest among those in the higher socio-economic groups; 45% of those in social grade AB compared to 29% of DE respondents.


Populus interviewed a nationally representative sample of 2,183 UK adults aged 18+ from its online panel between 6-7 December 2017. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Further information at www.populus.co.uk.

For more information on the Hanover Health Tracker please contact Thomas Cawston, Head of Health Policy, tcawston@hanovercomms.com.