The public recognise the link between climate change and health, and generally do not have strong views on the role of the NHS and social care in responding to climate change

New polling by Ipsos MORI for The Health Foundation shows the public are concerned about climate change and its threat to health and are supportive of the NHS’s aim to be net zero, but do not think this should be a priority for the NHS

The author(s)

  • Kate Duxbury Public Affairs
  • Daniela Alvarez Garcia Public Affairs
  • Bridget Williams Public Affairs
  • Sam Ridout Public Affairs
  • Allan Hyde Public Affairs
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New polling data from the Health Foundation and Ipsos MORI has found that four in five members of the public (82%) are concerned about climate change, with a similar proportion thinking it is a global emergency (80%) and caused by human activity (81%). 

Regarding the link between climate change and health, around one quarter (25%) see climate change as one of the biggest threats to their health; this was less than threats such as chronic disease and COVID-19, but equally significant as accidents/injuries and mental health problems. The public think climate change poses a threat to health via increases in flooding (87%), longer and hotter heatwaves (82%) and increases in extreme weather events (81%). 

There were less strong views on the role of the NHS and social care in responding to climate change. Fewer than half of respondents (44%) agree that the NHS has a responsibility to reduce its impact on climate change, although only around one in five (18%) disagree – more are neutral (35%). Despite this, there is generally strong support for the NHS’s net zero policy, with seven in ten (70%) saying they support it. However, only one in five (19%) think the NHS reducing its impact on climate change should be among its top priorities. 

The public are supportive of a range of measures the NHS could take to reduce its impact on the environment, including providing more environmentally friendly food (65% support) and switching its fleet of vehicles to hydrogen power (63%). However, they are less supportive of measures which impinge on individual patient treatment, such as considering the environmental impact of treatments within the NHS (30% support) or encouraging patients to manage their condition at home with online support (39%).

Technical note

The survey was conducted between 22nd July and 28th July 2021 amongst residents of the UK aged 16 and over via the Ipsos MORI UK KnowledgePanel. The KnowledgePanel is a random probability online panel with over 15,000 panellists who are recruited using off-line random probability unclustered address-based sampling, the gold-standard in UK survey research. A total of 3,000 respondents were selected and invited to take part in the survey. The selected sample was then reviewed on key demographics to ensure a balanced sample was selected for the survey. A total of 1,858 respondents completed the survey, delivering a response rate of 62%. 

The sample was stratified by nation and education and reviewed on key demographics to ensure a balanced sample was selected for the survey. A weighting spec was applied to the data in line with the target sample profile; this included one which corrected for unequal probabilities of selection of household members (to account for two members who may have been selected from one household), and weights for region, an interlocked variable of Gender by Age, Education, Ethnicity, Index of Multiple Deprivation (quintiles), and number of adults in the household. 

The author(s)

  • Kate Duxbury Public Affairs
  • Daniela Alvarez Garcia Public Affairs
  • Bridget Williams Public Affairs
  • Sam Ridout Public Affairs
  • Allan Hyde Public Affairs

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