What does the public want the Government to do for the NHS? 

Confidence from Conservative voters in their own party's handling of the NHS has dropped from 70% to 27%

A demonstration led by a banner reading 'Save our NHS'

Confidence in government policies for the NHS has hit major lows as Rishi Sunak admits to failed pledges and overall satisfaction in care is poor. But support for the founding principles of the NHS remains high and the public want solutions. 

Recent polling suggests Britons are not optimistic about the future of the NHS, with a recent YouGov survey showing the majority (56%) believe the public health body will only get worse over the next few years. Only 14% think things will get better for the NHS and 24% think it will stay the same. 

But what are the main issues the public wants the government to address regarding the NHS? 


A publication from The Health Foundation on public perception of the NHS found there was strong support for an increase in funding, with the public surveyed by the group in general of the belief that the UK government spends less than other countries on healthcare.   

The public were divided on how to fund an increase in spending, as support shifted towards increasing taxes and away from cutting spending on other services. However the majority of those surveyed by the Kings Trust over a similar period believed the NHS should ‘live within its budget’ when it came to additional funds. 

Despite challenges, support for what the NHS stands for remains high, with the core principle of having a health system that remains free at the point of delivery for all supported by 87% of the public.

How to spend the money

The majority of the public do not believe NHS staff are treated well, and support improvements to staff working conditions and pay. 

Support remains high for striking NHS workers, from nurses to doctors. One year on from the nurses strike a report found nearly seven in ten people continue to support nurses striking over pay. Whilst over 70% support nurses striking over staff shortages.

This suggests that the public would like the government to invest in the NHS workforce and ways of increasing retention of staff while offering a proper pay rise. 

Results from the Kings Fund last year found the top priorities for the NHS should be, making it easier to get a GP appointment and increasing the number of staff. With these two remaining the same priorities from the public as previous years.

The report also found a sharp increase in those who want to see A&E waiting times as a top priority with those surveyed also favouring a free, accessible tax-funded service.

The health and social care charity said politicians should look at understanding the factors which saw satisfaction in the NHS grow steadily every year from 38% in 2001 to a high of 70% in 2010 – correlating with sustained investment in health services, a reward and retain workforce and targeted improvements in waiting lists.

Change of Government

There has been a striking decrease in Conservative voters’ confidence in their own party’s handling of the NHS in recent years. Current YouGov polling shows confidence has dropped from 70% in 2019 to 27% now. Whilst Tory voters confidence in Labour grew from 11% to 21% during this period.

The view of the general population is that Labour is the best party to manage the NHS, by 40% compared to 10% who believe the Conservatives are best placed. Meaning the public believe a general election could well be one remedy for the NHS.  

(Image credit: Sheila / Creative Commons)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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