Reputation Survey: National Health Service reform - NHS changes 'are just way to save money'

Budget-cutting is at the root of the Government shake-up, says the public, but there is strong support for the Prime Minister's view that there is too much waste and bureaucracy.

Saving money through reform: The NHS
Saving money through reform: The NHS

New figures show that 69 per cent of the public think the main reason for changes to the NHS is to save money, rather than improving patient care.

PRWeek/OnePoll's survey of 3,000 people found that 17 per cent thought the main reason was to make the NHS more efficient, but only four per cent believed it was to improve patient care and six per cent said it was to give patients greater control over their own healthcare.

The results make uncomfortable reading for the Conservative Party, with only 27 per cent saying they trust the party and Prime Minister David Cameron to make decisions about the NHS that benefit patients and prioritise quality care. Fifty-eight per cent said they believed the Government was more interested in saving money.

Only 12 per cent believed the reforms would improve patient care, with 45 per cent saying they would not.

In a separate question, 57 per cent said the changes would prioritise cost over quality.

It is clear that a greater comms effort is needed to inform the public of the changes. Only 15 per cent said they understood how the reforms would change the NHS, 49 per cent said they understood a little but still wanted more explanation, and 36 per cent said they did not understand them.

But the public appeared to support making changes to the NHS. Thirty per cent strongly agreed, and a further 39 per cent agreed, with Cameron that there was too much waste and bureaucracy in the NHS, while 18 per cent strongly agreed and 39 per cent agreed that the NHS needed to undergo radical reform.

Survey of 3,000 members of the public conducted by global research agency OnePoll

HOW I SEE IT - Jessica Frost, Head of healthcare practice, Open Road

You know something is up when the Prime Minister stakes his credibility on it. Over the past fortnight, the Government's NHS reform programme has looked increasingly beleaguered. The coalition could hardly have incurred the wrath of more stakeholders: from the BMA to the NHS Confederation, no one seems to like its proposals. And the electorate? They too are unconvinced. According to this survey, a whopping 69 per cent believe cutting the NHS budget is the main reason for the reforms, and a meagre four per cent put improving patient care as the main aim. The use of the NHS to detoxify the Tories' image has failed.

Two caveats though: If the Government clarifies the communication of its patient care message, it might stick. And while Labour claims the reforms constitute 'privatisation by the back door', 52 per cent of people do not care who provides services, as long as they are good.

- Cost Cutting

69% of respondents thought that saving money was the main reason for the Government's reforms

- NHS Admired

60% said they believed the UK's health system was better than that of the US

- Mistrust Cameron

58% did not trust the PM and his party to make decisions that would benefit patients and prioritise quality care

- Do you understand how the proposed reforms will ...

... change the NHS?

Yes 15%

No 36%

A little, but I would still like more explanation 49%

- Do you believe the NHS changes will ...

... improve patient care?

Yes 12%

No 45%

Don't Know 43%

- Do you think the changes ...

... prioritise cost over quality?

Yes 57.5%

No 14.5%

Don't Know 28%

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