Date Published: 17 April 2007

Health tops list of priorities for next government - RCN Survey (UK)

Health should be the number one government priority, according to a YouGov survey for the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

In a poll of more than 2000 members of the general public, health was voted the top spending priority for the next government, ahead of law and order, education, defence and the environment.

The survey also demonstrated the general public's overwhelming support for the health service, with more than nine out of ten (93%) people saying that they valued the NHS as an essential, free public service.

The vast majority of those polled agreed that government had been right to increase spending in the NHS over the past ten years with most saying they did not want funding to be reduced, as planned, after 2008. More than half (59%) wanted to see a higher level of investment, while another third (30%) wanted to see funding maintained at current levels.

In a clear warning to government most people surveyed thought that services and patient care would suffer if spending on the NHS was reduced at the end of next year. Nearly three-quarters (72%) believed that reduced investment would lead to increased waiting times and patients being denied access to key services. Most (71%) also agreed that patients would be charged for some NHS services that were currently free.

General Secretary of the RCN, Dr Peter Carter, said:

With elections looming in Scotland and Wales, as well as local elections in many parts of England, the electorate may well punish our politicians at the ballot box if health is not top of their agenda.

_ The message from voters tothose who aspire to govern is crystal clear – if you wantus to support you, you must support the NHS.

The survey also highlighted concerns about the role of the private sector and government policies aimed at introducing market forces into the health service, with almost half (47%) agreeing that these policies would cause the eventual break up of the NHS.

Opinion was divided on whether the government should introduce a dedicated NHS tax with almost half of those questioned (46%) agreeing that some people should pay an extra tax for the health service. Of these, 17% thought everyone should pay; 18% thought that only higher rate tax payers should contribute and 11% thought that only those earning over £100,000 per year should be targeted.

When asked in more detail about their healthcare priorities almost half of those surveyed (49%) ranked hospitals above other areas, such as reducing waiting times, more health services in the community, care for the elderly and public health.

Dr Peter Carter said:

" This survey is proof that the public value and believe in our NHS; that they want modernisation, not privatisation; and that they demandincreased investment in order to maintain the welcome progress made in recent years.

_ The NHS is a unique public institution with a unique role in our national life and it should be supported and sustained. That's what the public believe and that's the message our politicians need to hear and act upon".


Source: Royal College of Nursing (RCN), UK.

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