As the NHS approaches its 70th birthday, the Kings Fund has initiated a public debate as to how this much-loved institution can be sustained for future generations.  This  project, entitled the changing relationship between the public and the NHS,  will focus primarily on how people view the NHS, what they expect from it, and what  they feel are their obligations towards the service.

To start the debate the Kings Fund commissioned IPSOS MORI to undertake a survey on the public’s attitude towards the NHS.  The findings are as follows:

  • 77% of the public believe the NHS should be maintained in its current form – a level of support that has remained consistent over the last two decades despite the financial problems currently being experienced
  • Around 90% of people support the founding principles of the NHS indicating no change in their relevancy
  • Two thirds (66%) of adults are willing to pay more taxes to fund the NHS.
  • 67% would prefer treatments and services to be available to everyone and not dependent on where people live, while 31% think that treatments and services should be based on local need.
  • While some people (29%) say decisions about the availability of treatments and services should be left to qualified health professionals, the majority of people (56%) wish to be consulted, but only a minority (14%) wish to be actively involved. This supports both clinical and public engagement in commissioning of services.
  • 65% believe that keeping healthy is primarily down to the individual, with the NHS stepping in when needed.  This suggests a recognition that people have a responsibility towards keeping themselves healthy

The results of this survey indicate that public support for the NHS is still very strong, and in line with the responses given, the Kings Fund wish to progress this project to look at public attitudes towards  the following lines of enquiry:

  • The public have indicated a willingness to pay more taxes to maintain the NHS, but how much extra are they willing to pay, and what are they willing to pay it for?
  • People should be responsible for their own health with the NHS stepping in when needed.  In what areas is it acceptable to increase individual responsibility?
  • When and how should the public be consulted about changes to services, and should their view ever outweigh that of clinicians?
  • Expectations of the NHS are largely being met but how will these expectations change as new treatments, technologies and care models are developed?

The Kings Fund will be commissioning a series of articles to answer the above questions and to highlight different perspectives on the relationship between public and the NHS. You can find out more about this piece of work here.

To read the full Kings Fund article please click here.