Tax increase should pay for health and social care, says poll

A survey conducted on behalf of the Health Foundation indicates that there is increasing public support for paying more tax to maintain and improve health and social care.

The Ipsos MORI survey also found that the public now view a lack of investment in the NHS and long waiting times as the top issues facing the health service, followed by concerns around an insufficient and overworked workforce.

The survey of nearly 2,000 people shows that 67 per cent favour an increase in taxes to maintain current levels of NHS care, up from 64 per cent in May 2017 and 59 per cent in March 2015. Only 13 per cent think spending on other services should be reduced to maintain current levels of NHS care.

Additionally, 62 per cent 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 per cent in May 2018. Furthermore, only 11 per cent think funding increases for social care should come from cuts to other services.

The Health Foundation 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, with 72 per cent strongly agreeing with this principle, compared to 66 per cent in May 2017 and 60 per cent in March 2015, as is a preference for NHS funded care to be delivered directly by the NHS (60 per cent), as opposed to by the private (11 per cent) or non-profit (one per cent) sectors.

On social care, 62 per cent people say it is unacceptable to have to use the value of one’s home to pay for care, while 21 per cent say it is acceptable. Nearly half think it is unfair that people are means-tested to receive social care, while 37 per cent think means-testing is fair.

The survey also reveals the latest public opinions about how the UK’s departure from the EU will affect the NHS. Remaining in the 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 10 per cent think leaving the EU without a deal or with the government’s new deal would have a positive impact on the NHS.

When discussing the impact of Brexit on the NHS, of the 57 per cent who highlight at least one negative possible impact, the most frequent concerns are: staffing shortfalls caused by EU doctors and nurses leaving the UK (30 per cent); a shortage of medicines and other supplies (27 per cent); and increased prices of medicines and other supplies (25 per cent).

Jennifer Dixon, chief executive of the Health Foundation, said: “The public report unwavering support for the NHS and growing dissatisfaction with the unfairness of the social care system in England. 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.

“People are clearly now recognising the deep unfairness in how social care support for older people works and are increasingly dissatisfied. 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. The survey also highlights the depth of public unease about how Brexit will affect the NHS. People need more information and reassurance to address their concerns about staffing shortages and the supply and cost of medications.”