NHS at 60- MRSA superbug infections are patients biggest fear
In a separate finding, 31% said they would consider avoiding NHS surgery for fear of getting an infection.
The most widely-cited concern after infections was the wait people face for treatment.
Despite the NHS in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland making shorter waits a priority, one in four people still cited this as a concern.
In England, which is the furthest ahead in reducing waits, no-one should be waiting longer than 18 weeks by the end of the year.
One in 10 polled also said that both the lack of staff and mixed-sex accommodation was their biggest concern.
However, it is superbugs which dominate people’s thoughts in the poll carried out by ICM Research for the BBC.
Just 33% of respondents said they were confident that the NHS would protect them from picking up an infection in hospital.
In contrast, 94% were confident that the NHS would provide good care in an emergency such as a car crash, and 86% were confident it would deliver a baby safely.
Ministers have made tackling bugs a priority, launching initiatives such as this year’s £50m deep clean of wards.
Infection rates are even higher in Scotland, while in Wales and Northern Ireland they are slightly lower.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association, said the findings on infection were of “huge concern”.
He said: “We understand why people are so concerned about hospital-acquired infections and although infection rates are coming down, no-one can be happy with the levels that still exist.
“We owe it to patients to be able to prove to them that hospitals are a safe place to go to benefit from the help modern medicine can provide.”
Professor John Appleby, chief economist of the independent think thank The King’s Fund, said media coverage had fuelled fears about hospital infections.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said it had “come a long way in tackling infections, but any avoidable infection is one too many”.
“We have introduced a raft of measures that we know will reduce infection and are already having an impact,” she said.