Public want NHS protected from funding cuts

Sacrifice other departments instead of the NHS, say three out of four people in British Medical Association poll.

More than three-quarters of the public – 77% – believe NHS funding should be protected in the face of future spending cuts, an opinion poll has found.

Other departments’ budgets should be sacrificed in order to preserve the health service, the British Medical Association survey heard. Four out of 10 people said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to sustain growth in NHS funding.

The poll questioned 1,071 people in five UK cities – London, Edinburgh, Belfast, Manchester and Cardiff – reflects fears that severe cutbacks are looming.

Nine out of 10 people suspect NHS services will be cut as a result of the recession, and almost as many believe waiting times for treatment will rise; 85% anticipate additional charges for NHS treatments.

The level of public support for the NHS at the expense of other departments is likely to be welcomed by the Conservative health spokesman, Andrew Lansley, who last month stirred controversy when he declared that a future Tory administration would protect the health service and target cuts elsewhere.

The poll, released on the eve of the BMA’s annual conference in Liverpool, gave conflicting evidence about privatisation. Nearly 60% said the private sector should be more involved in providing NHS services but almost half (47%) said there should be no further contracts for commercial companies.

The BMA chairman, Dr Hamish Meldrum, said: “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.”


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