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BBC/ICM Poll, 3: the NHS

20 March 2017

Another subject covered in some depth in the recent BBC/ICM poll was the NHS.

In addition to asking which level of government – UK or Welsh – runs the NHS in Wales, the poll also enquired about the appropriate level of spending on the health service. The specific question asked was:


“The Welsh Government currently spends nearly 50% of its budget on the NHS. Which of the following statements do you most agree with?”


Respondents were then asked to decide whether the Welsh Government should spend more or less on the NHS, or whether the level of spending was about right; they also had a Don’t Know option. Some 64 percent of respondents chose ‘more’, only two precent said ‘less’. Of the remainder, 32 percent said ‘about right’, and the final two percent were Don’t Knows.

It is hardly unsurprising to see many people wanting to have more money spent on the NHS. Spending on the NHS is broadly seen in the UK as a Good Thing. What the question didn’t make clear – understandably, as it could easily have become absurdly long – is that the remainder of Welsh Government spending covers many other matters, including education, and that increasing NHS spending from a fixed pot would mean less money for other areas. Given that plenty of respondents to the survey did not even know that the Welsh Government ran the NHS in Wales, they may well have a very hazy idea of what else that government spends its money on. And they may thus also have had little idea of the implied trade-offs from increasing NHS spending.

Looking at the details of the results, we do see those in lower social classes (C2, D and E) being particularly likely to endorse greater NHS spending. Of course, people in these social positions are more likely to depend on the NHS, and not have any private health cover, than those further up the social scale.

On this question, as on all the others in the poll, we unfortunately have no information about where the supporters of different political parties stand.

Related to NHS spending, the BBC/ICM poll also asked a set of questions about possible ways to increase the resources available to the service. The main question asked was the following:


“To maintain the current level of care and services provided by the NHS, funding for the NHS would have to increase. I am now going to read out some suggestions people have made about how funding could increase. With that in mind, how acceptable or unacceptable do you feel each of the following measures would be?”


A series of options were then presented to respondents; the table below summarises the answers obtained:


Acceptable Unacceptable Neither/Don’t Know
Charging for some health services that are currently free 39% 48% 13%

Charging patients who have diseases and illnesses which are caused in some way by their lifestyle

42% 44%  


Increasing income tax 41% 48%  


Increasing National Insurance 48% 39%  


Increasing charges for visitors from outside the United Kingdom for health services they receive from the NHS 79% 14%  


Moving to a type of insurance model for NHS funding 32% 50%  


Charging patients for missed appointments (for example GP or hospital appointments) 74% 20% 6%


As can be seen, the only proposals that attract clear majority support are those regarding charging people who miss appointments, and foreigners. (Neither of which is probably a serious idea for actually producing substantial additional resources for the NHS). Tax rises are much less popular – although National Insurance more so than Income Tax, a distinction that probably reflects continuing confusion among at least some people as to the contemporary nature of National Insurance payments.

Once again, we have no information on how the supporters of the different parties line up on these proposals. This is again a great pity, as it would have been very useful to know where they stood on some of these proposals. Without such information, the results of the poll are inevitably less interesting than they might have been.


1 comment
  1. James

    And a shame they missed the obvious “charging for all appointments” question that should have followed their last one. That would be an interesting one to see how public opinion divided.

    I’d also have liked to have seen a question on moving medics onto the standard pay bands used by all other health professions, in line with qualifications and responsibility.

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