An opinion poll published today by BMI Healthcare, the UKâ€Ÿs largest private hospital operator, has revealed increasing favourability towards public and private sector collaboration in delivering healthcare services, with the current NHS model of free treatment at the point of delivery viewed by the majority of the public as unsustainable.
The results of the public survey, conducted by COMRES, follow a similar recent BMI poll of MPs which showed major ideological differences between the UKâ€Ÿs two major parties on the future of healthcare with the Conservatives broadly in favour of a dual economy featuring public and private sectors providers working more closely together.
This latest opinion poll asked the public similar questions as previously posed to MPs. Labour MPs are closer to the view of the general public as regards spending increases on the NHS in the next Parliament – with 79% of the public and 64% of Labour MPs supporting real terms increases compared to just 29% of Conservatives.
However, on most other questions the views of Conservative MPs more closely mirror the public mood. This is particularly true regarding the future of the NHS where 82% of Labour MPs questioned believe the current model of free care at the point of delivery and funded by general taxation is sustainable. Only 37% of the public share this view and the majority – 51% - believe the NHS model is no longer sustainable, a position that some 62% of Conservative MPs agree with.
The results of the poll call into question whether the NHS is still regarded as a „national treasureâ€Ÿ. Nearly three quarters of the general public (74%) believe that it doesnâ€Ÿt matter who they are treated by so long as that treatment is timely – 93% of Conservative MPs echoed this sentiment compared with 49% of Labour MPs.
Adrian Fawcett, Chief Executive of BMI Healthcare, said: “The results show that the British public are ready for a closer partnership between the public and private healthcare sectors, and would support healthcare reform and new approaches to funding provided it delivers more timely healthcare.
“It can no longer be argued that the healthcare debate is about geography or income. These findings show that the level of public support for measures such as co-payment, more flexible private and public sector funding and constructive use of tax measures to encourage greater uptake of private medical insurance is consistently high across all regions, and amongst all social groupings. The NHS will always be vital in delivering core health services for this country but the public clearly believe the private sector has a role to play in improving standards.”
The majority of the public are also supportive of a range of other measures which might form a platform for further reform of the NHS:
- The public are broadly in favour of patients being able to part pay with their own funds in order to receive treatment more quickly (62% agree). A majority of Conservative MPs also agree with this (67%) compared to just 14% of Labour MPs
- The public also agree that the NHS should pay for patients to go private to reduce waiting times, by 64% in favour to 33% against. This again echoes with Conservative MPsâ€Ÿ views, 77% of whom agree with this, but less so with Labour MPs (only 47% agree)
- The public also broadly agree with Conservative MPs that it is largely irrelevant whether treatment is provided by the NHS or a private company as long as the care is timely. 74% of the public agree with this, as do 93% of Conservative MPs (49% of Labour MPs agree)
- Around seven in ten of the public are in favour of claiming income tax back on private medical insurance and on any other healthcare fees paid out of private income. This again is closer to the views of Conservative MPs although they are not as supportive – 48% support tax relief for all income levels and 55% support tax relief for private healthcare fees. This is in sharp contrast to Labour MPs, only 1% of whom support such measures.