Britain’s NHS worries: waiting times, resources, timely GP appointments and quick emergency treatment

As the Omicron variant makes its way through Britain, the public are worried about how long it takes to access NHS services

The author(s)
  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
  • Gideon Skinner UK Head of Political Research
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  • Seven in ten Britons lack confidence they can get an appointment with a GP at a time when they want one
  • Nearly nine in ten say NHS waiting times for non-emergency treatment and care are too long and more than three quarters for emergency treatment waiting times
  • Britons see lack of resources and investment as the biggest problem facing the NHS

Confidence getting NHS services when needed

  • 69% of Britons say that they lack confidence that they can get an appointment with a GP at a time when they want one, with just 30% confident that they can do so.
  • 54% lack confidence, but 44% are confident, that if they needed an ambulance one would arrive quickly.
  • 52% lack confidence, but 47% are confident, that if they needed emergency care in A&E they would be seen quickly.

Confidence getting NHS services when needed

NHS waiting times

  • 78% of Britons agree that NHS waiting times are too long for emergency treatment and care, with just 17% disagreeing. This is a small increase from 74% agreeing in 2016, but a larger rise in the proportion strongly agreeing that waiting times are too long from 32% to 45% from 2016 to 2021.
  • 87% of Britons agree that NHS waiting times are too long for non-emergency treatment and care, with just 10% disagreeing. This is an increase from 76% agreeing in 2016, and a rise in the proportion strongly agreeing that waiting times are too long from 31% to 57% from 2016 to 2021.

Are NHS waiting lists too long?

Biggest problems facing the NHS

  • When asked unprompted what they see as the biggest problems facing the NHS, 46% of Britons say a lack of resources/investment, 33% not enough doctors/nurses/understaffed and 25% long waiting lists/times.
  • Labour supporters are more likely than Conservative supporters to cite a range of issues such as lack of resources/investment (56% vs 41%), not enough doctors/nurses/understaffed (41% vs 29%) and poor pay for NHS staff (27% vs 10%), while Conservative supporters are more likely than Labour to say bureaucracy/top heavy management (22% vs 11%) and not enough GPs (14% vs 9%).

Biggest problem facing the NHS

Gideon Skinner, Head of political research at Ipsos, says of the findings: 

The NHS is a perennial concern for Britons, and fears about under-investment are nothing new.  But even as the Omicron variant gathers pace, we find that worries about waiting lists are particularly acute this winter, even amongst Conservative supporters.  Nor are the public confident that they can even get an appointment with their GP at the time that they want.  Of course, this has been recognised by Sajid Javid, who warned about the impact of Covid on waiting lists, and extra funding has been announced.   But amongst public services the NHS is one where the Conservatives can be especially vulnerable – Labour actually increased their lead on this issue towards the end of last year – so this just adds to the challenges the Government faces.

Notes to Editors:

  • Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 1,005 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone: 3rd to 10th December 2021. Data are weighted to match the profile of the population. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.   
  • On the basis of the historical record of the polls at recent general elections, there is a 9 in 10 chance that the true value of a party’s support lies within 4 points of the estimates provided by this poll, and a 2 in 3 chance that they lie within 2 points. This is especially important to keep in mind when calculating party lead figures. 
     
The author(s)
  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
  • Gideon Skinner UK Head of Political Research

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