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Hanover - Uncertain Times Require Uncommon Sense

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29 May 2018

With the return of the Hanover Health Tracker, public satisfaction with the NHS remains strong. However, there are some signs that attitudes are starting to shift. Recent months have seen the Prime Minister promise a significant funding announcement before the summer and this may have already translated into growing optimism for the future of the NHS.

Our national poll of over 2,000 adults from across the UK, conducted in partnership with Populus, confirms that while many measures of satisfaction are unchanged in some areas, the public are becoming less concerned than a few months before, including on the impact of Brexit on the NHS.

With the country gearing up for the NHS’s 70th anniversary, stories on winter pressures have started to make way for features on the future of healthcare. Our national poll of over 2,000 adults from across the UK, conducted in partnership with Populus, confirms that while many measures of satisfaction are unchanged in some areas, the public are becoming less concerned than a few months before, including on the impact of Brexit on the NHS.

Overall satisfaction rates with the NHS remain broadly stable.

Overall satisfaction rates are unchanged from the 60% reported in January and 62% reported in February; in May, 61% of people agreed that they were satisfied. Again, those aged over 65 are most satisfied and those aged 25-34 are the least likely to agree they are satisfied. More people believe that the NHS is a world class health service, 76% up from 71% in January’s report and 73% in February’s report, with only 11% disagreeing.

Greater optimism for the future.

While the public are less inclined to believe things have improved (42% disagreed that NHS services have improved in the last 5 years, compared to 39% in the January report), there is greater confidence that the NHS will “continue to provide a comprehensive service, free at the point of care, in 10 years’ time”. Now 45% of the public agree that it will, up from 39% in the January and February reports. Older people are more confident than younger people.

Increased concern over A&E, yet people still satisfied with services in general.

In May, only 21% of people agreed that A&E services were suitably staffed, down from 25% in the January report and 23% in the February report. Satisfaction with primary care and the quality of services have remained steady or improved. In May, 72% agreed that the NHS provides “comprehensive and accessible high quality care”, up from 68% in the January report. 60%agreed that GP care was both high quality and accessible, up from 58% in the January report.

Access to medicines remains a concern for older people.

Since the winter, the number of people who agree that the NHS “is able to ensure patients can access the latest medicines” has increased from 39% to 43%. Older people remain concerned; the improvement has been seen almost entirely in younger people. Only 34% of those aged 55-64 and 38% of those aged 65 and over agreed, compared to 58% of 18-25 year olds.

Views on Brexit are now finely balanced.

The first versions of the Health Tracker found that more members of the public were likely to agree that Brexit would have a negative impact on the NHS, with 38% of the public agreeing compared to 26% disagreeing. However, the May poll shows that the numbers are evenly split with 32% to 32%, with a significant proportion of the public undecided. As before, younger people are more likely to believe that Brexit will have a negative impact.

Public satisfaction with social care is still low.

When asked if “Adult social care services provide a good standard of care to those who use it”, only 28% of respondents in May agreed, compared to 29% in the February report and 25% in the January report. An increasing number of those aged 65 and over disagree, rising from 39% in January to 45% in May. Older people remain more likely to disagree that adult social care services provide a good standard than young people.

Populus interviewed a nationally representative sample of 2,078 UK adults aged 18+ from its online panel between 11-13 May 2018. Populus previously interviewed a representative sample of 2,183 UK adults between 6-7 December 2017 and 2,071 UK adults between 29-30 January. 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 at tcawston@hanovercomms.com.