Increase in support for tax rises to fund NHS

13 Apr 18

Public support for a tax increase devoted to the NHS has grown sharply in only two years, according to The King’s Fund.

Its analysis of data on attitudes towards the NHS from last year’s British Social Attitudes survey found 61% of respondents supported tax rises to increase NHS funding, up by 12 percentage points from 2016.

The health policy think-tank said its findings showed “the public are increasingly anxious about the state of the NHS and [there is] a growing consensus that the NHS is facing a funding crisis”.

Of those who supported higher taxes, 35% thought there should be a specific NHS tax, while the reminder preferred to pay more through existing taxes.

The King’s Fund said public concern about the quality of NHS care has risen, with fears that it would not improve running at their highest levels since the early 2000s.

At that time, the Labour government increased National Insurance contributions specifically for NHS funding, which the King’s Fund said was also strongly supported across different sections of society.

“We are seeing the same patterns in public opinion now, with a majority of supporters of both main political parties in favour of tax increases for the NHS,” the think-tank said.

“The gold-standard methodology of the BSA survey means that we are as sure as we can be that these findings reflect a genuine shift in the public’s opinion.”

Support crossed the political divide, with 56% of Conservative voters and 68% of Labour ones backing the idea.

This ran in parallel with pessimism about the NHS’s future, with 56% of respondents expecting standards to worsen over the next five years, an increase of 21 percentage points since 2014.

There was little difference in support for higher taxes across income groups, with

54% of respondents from even the lowest-earning households giving their support. There was no significant difference across age groups.

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said: “The public support the NHS. They are rightly worried that standards are slipping. And increasingly – as this survey shows – they are prepared to pay more to fix it.”

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “These figures clearly show that more of the public support more resources for the NHS and that they are willing to pay more tax to bring that about.

“The case for more money for both health and social care has been made and it is overwhelming. Just about everyone is calling on the government to act.”

Former Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb said his party had argued for a penny on income tax for the NHS and social care at the last general election and “as we approach the 70th anniversary of the NHS, we desperately need the Conservative government to accept the case for a tax increase”.

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