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Most Britons think ‘free’ NHS will be eroded in 10 years

Most Britons think ‘free’ NHS will be eroded in 10 years
By Jess Hacker
3 July 2023

An overwhelming majority (71%) of the British public believe the NHS’ principle of being ‘free at the point of delivery’ will be eroded to some extent over the next decade, polling has indicated.

As many as half (51%) expect to have to pay for some services they currently access for free, while 13% and 7% anticipate upfront costs for most or all services respectively.

Surveying 2,450 UK adults in early May 2023, the Health Foundation and market researcher Ipsos found that 61% think the NHS is not prepared to respond to climate change.

And nearly four-fifths (77%) believe the NHS is not prepared to meet the increasing demands of the ageing population.

Half (51%) felt the NHS was not prepared to keep up with new technologies to improve patient care.

The UK public are, however, more slightly confident in the health service’s preparedness for future pandemic, with 47% believing that to be the case compared to 46% who disagree.

Despite this, nearly three-quarters (72%) think the NHS is crucial to British society and that it should be maintained.

Still, a quarter (26%) argued it ‘probably’ cannot be maintained in its current form.

Tim Gardner, assistant director for policy at the Health Foundation, said: ‘After 75 years, the NHS remains fundamental to what it means to be British – but there is real concern among the public about whether the principles on which the health service was founded will endure.

‘People’s concern about the current state of the health service should not be interpreted as an appetite for radical change to its founding principles. Our polling consistently shows that the public wants a better health service, that can respond to changing health needs and continue to provide equitable access for all, and backs the investment and policy action needed to bring that about.

‘The government has chosen to mark the NHS’ anniversary by finally publishing the long overdue workforce strategy, but this should be just the start of a longer-term and sustained process of investment and improvement – not a one-off event.’

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