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Public confidence in the NHS stays firm

Poll shows public think politicians and media portray misleading picture of NHS

Mark Gould

Monday, 09 February 2015

In spite of the heavy and sustained negative media coverage of the last 12 months, new research shows that public trust in the NHS remains stable. The NHS Alliance's annual Temperature Check shows that the public’s faith in the NHS to look after them when ill is even stronger - despite the winter A&E crisis and continued negative media coverage of missed targets throughout December and January.

Even with the barrage of negative media coverage the NHS has received this winter, and the NHS being seen as a key election issue, the NHS Alliance research, carried out by YouGov, reveals that 73 per cent of people trust the NHS to look after them when they are ill. And, when asked if they trusted the NHS the same or more than this time last year, 60 per cent of respondents responded positively. This has shown little change since January 2014.

YouGov carried out an online poll of 3,352 adults in January. While 74 per cent of people, according to a recent BBC poll, believe that it is very important that the NHS receives media coverage in the run up to the general election, the Temperature Check also reveals that the public’s confidence in the media and politicians to convey an accurate portrayal of the NHS is exceptionally low. Only 7 per cent of the public believe politicians portray a balanced picture of the NHS, regardless of political party, and only 13 per cent of the population believe that the media portray a balanced picture of the NHS.

Dr Michael Dixon, the NHS Alliance chair, said: “While it is reassuring that the public still trusts the NHS to look after them, and that this hasn’t wavered despite the tsunami of negative media coverage around the NHS and its failure to meet targets, it is important that we act on the challenges the NHS currently faces and do all we can to change the perception of the one in four who lack confidence in the service.

“We believe it is the system, not the service, which requires treatment. It has become unnecessarily complicated, fragmented and bureaucratic. To address this, NHS Alliance has identified three key aims for 2015:

  • 24 / 7 responsibility for patients is returned to general practice operating within the Multi-speciality Community Providers model, suggested in NHS England’s Five Year Forward View. NHS Alliance described this model as a ‘Community of Care’ in its 2014 paper, Think Big, Act Now and is leading the way in helping make communities of care a reality through a new, dedicated support unit. We are convening an expert seminar in June to bring together analysis and case studies from our membership, and wider practitioners and policy makers from across the NHS to support their implementation. We welcome expressions of interest – simply email us at admin@nhsalliance.org.
  • We commend the RCGP campaign to attract young doctors to general practice and look forward to building on it when we launch our inspiration campaign to attract dynamic, young health professionals across primary care in its entirety next month.  The campaign will be driven by our Tomorrow’s Leaders Network, which brings together some of the brightest minds from primary care. These individuals are passionate about their careers in the community as pharmacists, optometrists, dentists and GPs, and are motivated to play a part in sustaining a national health service, free at the point of need.
  • However, none of the above is possible without a model of equitable funding between primary and secondary care providers. It is time to properly review the way healthcare is funded, as the disparity in funding between primary and secondary care is making it almost impossible to treat people where they want to be treated, and where they are most efficiently and safely treated; in the community. Over the coming months, NHS Alliance will be looking at how we change historical imbalances between primary and secondary care, whether it be funding, training, support or profile.

“Finally, as patients, we need to think carefully about our expectations and challenge the ethos that everyone is entitled to everything. To do that, we must involve patients more in the management of the NHS, and move their care into the community where possible. Together we can help sustain a healthcare system that remains free at the point of need. We need to help people understand that A&E is not the front door to the NHS – it should be used only as its name suggests, that is, in case of an accident or emergency.

“My hope is that in a year’s time, when we undertake our 2015/16 NHS Temperature Check, we are looking at a service in considerably better health, where patients are increasingly cared for in the community, by the community, wherever possible.”

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