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Growing public support for tax hikes for health and social care

Two out of three people would be prepared to stump up more to maintain and improve services, Ipsos Mori poll indicates

Caroline White

Friday, 06 December 2019

Two out of three people would be prepared to pay more tax to maintain and improve health and social care, suggest the results of an Ipsos MORI poll*, carried out on behalf of the think tank, The Health Foundation.

The responses indicate that support for this has grown in the past few years.

The survey of nearly 2,000 people shows that over two thirds (67%) favour an increase in taxes to maintain current levels of NHS care, up from 64% in May 2017 and 59% in March 2015.

Only 13% think spending on other services should be reduced to maintain current levels of NHS care.

Six out of 10 respondents (62%) say that if the government decided to increase spending on social care, this should be funded through some form of tax increase, up from 51% in May 2018. Only around one in 10 (11%) think this should come from cuts to other services.

The survey also reveals that public support for a tax-funded NHS, free at the point of use and providing comprehensive care for all citizens, is growing: 72% agree strongly with this principle, compared to 66% in May 2017 and 60% in March 2015.

Support for NHS-funded care to be delivered directly by the NHS (60%), as opposed to the private (11%) or non-profit (1%) sectors remains strong.

On social care, three in five (62%) people say it is unacceptable to have to use the value of one’s home to pay for care, while one in five (21%) say it is acceptable.

Nearly half (46%) think it is unfair that people are means-tested to receive social care, compared with just over a third (37%) who think this is fair.

Respondents were also asked for their views on Brexit’s impact on the NHS. Remaining in the European Union (EU) is seen as the least-worst option for the NHS when compared to a No Deal Brexit or leaving the EU with the government’s new deal.

Only one in 10 people think leaving the EU without a deal (10%) or with the government’s new deal (11%) would have a positive impact on the NHS.

On the other hand, 42% think leaving with the government’s new deal would be bad for the NHS, while half (53%) think a No Deal Brexit would be detrimental.

This compares to around a third of people (31%) who think remaining in the EU would be good for the NHS, while 55% think it would make no difference and 14% think it would be bad for the NHS.

Among the 57% of respondents who highlight at least one possible negative effect, the most common concerns are: staffing shortfalls caused by EU clinicians leaving the UK (30%); a shortage of medicines and other supplies (27%); and increased prices of medicines and other supplies (25%).

Of the 31% who highlight at least one positive impact of Brexit, the factors most commonly cited are: more funding for the NHS (16%); less health tourism (12%); and fewer people using the NHS if EU citizens return home (10%). 

“The public report unwavering support for the NHS and growing dissatisfaction with the unfairness of the social care system in England. People recognise that high-quality health and social care comes with a price tag and there is growing preference for tax increases as the best way to meet that cost rather than cutting back other services,” commented Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of the Health Foundation.

“While the three main parties’ funding pledges for the NHS and social care mean big differences in what the public can expect from these services over the next five years, investment in the NHS can’t continue to be at the expense of other public services, not least because these also affect our health,” she added.

“In stark contrast to the NHS, publicly funded social care is only provided free to those with the greatest need and lowest means, leaving too many others no choice but to sell their homes to pay for care. The public is strongly against this – which is yet another warning that the issue can no longer be dodged as previous governments have done. A new government should do the right thing and act fast,” she said.

The Health Foundation’s own analysis of the main political parties’ pledges on health and social care spending show that while the funds promised by the Liberal Democrats and Labour for the NHS would at least maintain current standards (and Labour’s would be enough to deliver improvements set out in the NHS Long Term Plan), the amount pledged by the Conservatives falls short of the 3.4% annual uplift needed just to maintain services in the face of rising demand.

None of the three main parties’ funding pledges for social care would be enough to restore spending to 2010-11 levels. Labour’s pledge comes closest to the amount needed to stabilise the current system and prevent it getting worse.

*Public perceptions of health and social care. Results from an Ipsos MORI poll commissioned by the Health Foundation for the 2019 General Election. December 2019

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