Can it ever be fit and well?
The Coronavirus crisis has demonstrated clearly the esteem, regard and genuine affection in which the majority of the population holds the NHS. Or perhaps, to be more accurate, that should read – the NHS staff? We’ve clapped and cheered the nation’s doctors, nurses, carers and support workers. We’ve marvelled at a level of dedication to duty far above and beyond what should reasonably be expected. We don’t yet know the precise figures, but what is beyond doubt is that the number of NHS workers who have lost their lives to Covid-19 is already in the hundreds. And we care. Deeply. And in the future most of us want our NHS workers to be better protected and better paid.
But do we feel the same way about the NHS itself? In the seventy-two years since the NHS was created it has consistently been lauded as the best healthcare system in the world. After all, in principle what could possibly be better than free healthcare for all? But is that now a naïve view and an unrealistic aim? The times have changed, as have attitudes and expectations, and costs have spiralled, along with the quantity of services the NHS seeks to provide. Some of these services have long been outsourced to private companies, although recently the Government has come under fire for awarding contracts to run Coronavirus testing services to commercial companies.
The pandemic has thrown a new spotlight on the delivery of health services in this country, with many now claiming they want to see the NHS reinstated as a fully nationalised service run in the public sector. But when the present Coronavirus crisis finally comes to an end, will that still be what they want? And can the NHS ever receive the funding it needs to function fully and efficiently?
What our surveys show
Before Corona, with a new government committed to Brexit and cosying up to the US, the future of a publicly funded health service looked uncertain. In the wake of the virus, it’s clear that the British public have little appetite for the “American model”, and whilst the majority of us are willing to accept some services being provided privately, there is no appetite for large scale privatisation. Indeed, a significant minority (35%) do not want any private provision of services.
Belief in the NHS is stronger amongst those with least experience and reliance on it, with 43% of ‘Generation Z’ believing that it is world beating, whilst only 25% of ‘Traditionals’ and 31% of ‘Baby Boomers’ feel the same. Interestingly, men seem more optimistic than women that the NHS will get the support that it needs to thrive, with 50% of men declaring themselves optimistic about the NHS’s future, compared to only 40% of women.