Politicians’ Fears Of Public Opposition To NHS Changes Are Misplaced, Finds NHS Confederation Survey

Poll shows public ready to support evidence-based change, and want more information on health service finance to engage in ‘honest debate’

Vital changes to local NHS services will not necessarily engender the opposition from patients and the public that politicians expect, according to an independent YouGov survey carried out for the NHS Confederation.

The latest in a series of surveys commissioned by the NHS Confederation regarding the future of the NHS has found that more than three-quarters of those polled (76 per cent) said they would support changes to their local NHS services if there was evidence these would improve care

The findings contrast starkly with previous polling commissioned by the NHS Confederation, in which 43 per cent of MPs said their constituents “would oppose changes to their local NHS”.

The latest survey, conducted by YouGov who polled more than 1,500 members of the public across England, shows a significant ‘disconnect’ between local voters’ readiness to support change and politicians’ belief that backing proposed changes to health services is “political suicide”.

The survey also found that the public’s readiness to engage in discussions about NHS reform is matched by an appetite for more information about health service finance, and a keenness for increased realism in how the issues are presented.

The YouGov survey found:
• less than half (40%) of people thought they had enough knowledge to contribute to an open debate about the future of the NHS.
• of those who said they don’t feel they have the necessary information to contribute to an open debate about the future of the NHS, 74% said that to do so, they would need  more info on how the NHS is funded and how money is spent.
• 81% of people disagreed or strongly disagreed that politicians are honest about the future of the NHS. Among these people, the highest number of people (30%) felt that politicians are most dishonest about privatisation.

Now Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, is calling on politicians to harness this local support for change. He said the gap between MPs’ perceptions and the actual views of the public indicates politicians have underestimated support for the kind of changes called for in The 2015 Challenge Manifesto: a time for action, published last month.

Mr Webster said: “NHS and social care services must change if we are to deliver better care for patients – this is crystal clear and the evidence mounts each week. As the country gets ready for NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens to set out his ‘Five Year Forward View’ for the NHS, we urge politicians to take on board that the country is more than ready for them to lead the way on ensuring the NHS has room, space and permission to change.

“In the past few weeks, in the 2015 Challenge Manifesto, we’ve seen the most influential coalition of health bodies ever set out their shared vision and asks to put the NHS on a sustainable footing. We’ve seen clinical leaders voice their strongest ever call for change, including such as the Royal College of Physicians manifesto, which unequivocally calls for politicians to take essential action to protect the health service and bring care closer to the patients.

“As we head into the final six months before the 2015 General Election, we know some candidates fear that talking about service changes could be ‘political suicide’ – but the data we are publishing today shows their constituents are far more prepared to discuss it than they might have thought.”

He added: “Yes Minister’s Sir Humphrey famously dubbed politicians as being “very courageous” when making bold, risky or potentially unpopular choices, even when these were the ‘right thing to do’. Today’s new data shows real-life politicians might not need to be to be as ‘courageous’ when doing the right thing by the NHS.

“The results of our poll show the public would clearly welcome an open conversation about what needs to be done to protect the health and care services they value so highly. Now more than ever, it is vital politicians of all parties demonstrate the leadership that voters clearly expect and deserve.”








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