A nationwide public opinion poll conducted by Hamilton Lock for the British Medical Association released has revealed how worried the public is about future funding of the health service in light of the recession.
Over three quarters (77%) of the public believe that cuts should be made in other government departments to protect NHS funding. When asked if taxes should increase to maintain the growth of NHS funding, four out of ten individuals (40%), agreed.
Around nine out of ten respondents feared that services could be cut (90%) and that waiting times for treatment could increase (89%). Over eight out of ten (85%) individuals believe there will be more charges for NHS services and eight out of ten (80%) thought the NHS should prioritize funding for the most important services.
The poll reveals that the public is clearly concerned about the commercialization of the NHS. Three out of five (59%) support private involvement in the health service, but almost half (47%) say there should be no further contracts for commercial companies to provide NHS services and 55% (more than five out of ten) say the NHS internal market where hospitals and GPs compete should be abolished.
BMA Chairman of Council, Dr Hamish Meldrum, said today:
"These results show how anxious the public is about the effects of the recession on the health service, with a significant number saying taxes should increase to protect NHS funding. No-one wants to see any cuts in the public sector but our poll reveals just how much society values their health service. Fear often goes hand in hand with economic slumps, with people worrying what will happen to them and their families in times of ill health.
"While we appreciate that the government needs to steer the country through this difficult economic period, we urge it not to do so at the expense of NHS funding. People always need good quality healthcare and it would be a huge mistake to try and make savings by squeezing the NHS.
"Although the private sector has for many years played a role in providing NHS care, a majority of the public believe that the government's dogmatic and misguided plan to commercialize the NHS has gone too far and is threatening the very future of the health service. The BMA would heartily agree and this bears out what doctors are telling us as part of our Look After Our NHS campaign."
Other key results from the poll include:-
• almost eight out of ten (77%) of respondents believe patients and the public should have a greater say in how the NHS delivers health services
• more than seven out of ten (73%) believe there should be less political involvement in the way the NHS is organized and run
• four out of ten (40%) do not have confidence that the government can safeguard the NHS in the current climate
over nine out of ten (95%) say they have confidence in doctors and nurses to safeguard the NHS in the current climate, with 30% saying they are very confident