What role will the NHS play in the 2017 election?

Ben Page in BMJ magazine looks at how public attitudes to the NHS might affect the general election campaign.

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  • Ben Page CEO, Ipsos
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The public sees the NHS as one of the top issues in this election campaign, as it did in the 2015 election. But will it be a decisive issue?

Pessimism about the future of the NHS is now the highest we have ever recorded, with 62% expecting deterioration. This puts the UK among the most negative countries globally on the future of healthcare in our 2017 Global Trends Survey.

As the NHS struggles with continuing austerity, the public has also become more sceptical about the central government’s plans for public services generally. But most people still feel personally unaffected. This and the perceived incompetence of the Labour party may explain the Conservatives’ strong lead in the national polls.

The Conservatives’ lead continues even though 62% of the public do not think that the government’s plans will improve public services. The proportion holding this view has increased since the start of the coalition government in May 2010 when 44% said that they did not think that the government’s plans would improve public services.

It has also continued despite the fact that most of the public (63%) say public services have deteriorated in the past five years, and the fact that the proportion holding this view has increased markedly since 2015 when 43% did so.

As we go into this snap election, the government still seems to have some breathing room. Despite pessimism about the future, only 26% say they and their families have personally been affected by cuts. This figure has been stable for a few years, and is lower than in 2012 when 33% said they had been personally affected. Just under half are worried about the impact of cuts in the next year. But this figure has been static for five years, and has been unchanged since before the Conservative victory in 2015.

With the Conservatives winning on economic competence and on having the best candidate for PM and—in some polling—the best team to run the NHS, this election looks pretty much cut and dried.

Overall satisfaction with the NHS remains much higher than at the turn of the century, despite newspaper headlines. And so, with Labour not mounting an effective national challenge, it is very unlikely that the NHS will be the decisive factor in the 2017 election.

This article was originally posted at BMJ.com

The author(s)
  • Ben Page CEO, Ipsos

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