The first results to be published from the new Welsh Political Barometer poll concern attitudes towards the NHS in Wales. YouGov asked respondents to the Barometer poll two interesting questions about the health service, a topic that will surely be one of the most important issues – indeed, possibly the most important – in next year’s National Assembly for Wales election.
The first question asked respondents the following:
“To what extent, if at all, do you trust the NHS in Wales to provide a high quality service?”
The overall profile of answers given is re-produced below, alongside those given by adults in England to an almost identical question (which asked about the NHS in England) in a parallel YouGov poll run at pretty much the same time last week.
|Trust a great deal||12||17|
|Trust a fair amount||49||57|
|Do not trust very much||27||17|
|Do not trust at all||9||4|
The positive news here is that the majority of people in Wales trust the NHS to provide a high quality service at least ‘a fair amount’. The less positive news is that ratings here are notably, if not massively, lower than in the parallel poll in England. Fewer people in Wales have positive levels of trust in the NHS, and greater numbers express distrust.
A rather similar pattern is evident in a second question that was included in the Barometer poll: this one asked about future expectations of the NHS:
“Do you think the standard of care in the NHS in Wales will get better or worse over the next few years, or will it stay much the same?”
Again, thanks to our friends in YouGov, we are able to compare Welsh responses to this question with a near-identical question included in a parallel study run in England:
|Stay much the same||32||41|
Just as in ratings of trust in the NHS at present, when we ask people about the future we see (very slightly) less optimism in Wales than England, and greater levels of pessimism. In both nations people are much more likely to think that things will get worse than get better in the NHS over the next few years. But whereas in England pessimists outnumber optimists by just under three-to-one, in Wales the ratio is very nearly four-to-one.
These findings do tend to suggest that public evaluations of the performance of the NHS in Wales are not particularly strong, and also that people are not very optimistic about its future.
One reasonable counter to the findings presented here might be that “it’s just one poll”. Except that it isn’t just one poll. In a much more detailed evaluation of public attitudes to the NHS published in January of this year, Lord Ashcroft found that there were consistent national differences in public evaluations of the NHS, measured in a number of different ways. Public evaluations were consistently the most positive in Scotland, less so in England, and the most negative in Wales.
In short, our findings here do not seem to be some freak outlier, but symptomatic of a consistent pattern in public attitudes. The broader political implications of this are something that I suspect we will return to on the Blog over the next few months.
I’ll be back later tonight with the voting intention figures from the Barometer poll. There will be other findings rolled out over the next few days.