Public attitudes and expectations: Future trends

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Part of Time to Think Differently

In this section we look at public expectations of health and social care services and how these may change in the future.

Key messages

  • Rising expectations of services
    The public is making more demands on health professionals and seeking more engagement in decisions about their care. Dignity and respect and the relational aspects of care are core drivers of satisfaction of both health and social care services. There is significant room for improvement in this aspect of care within the NHS, but particularly in social care.
  • The NHS continues to be highly valued – but there are concerns about its future
    Although, according to the recent British Social Attitudes Survey, net satisfaction with the NHS has fallen recently, there is no evidence that it is valued any less. Polling by Ipsos MORI shows that the majority of the population supports the model of tax-funded health care, free to all; however, nearly half are concerned that this model cannot be sustained.
  • Desire to protect the NHS from spending cuts
    MORI polling also shows that a high proportion of the population wants to see the NHS protected from any funding cuts, and 72 per cent believe that the NHS should provide all drugs and treatments no matter what they cost. However, only 38 per cent express a willingness to  pay more tax for increased health spending. There is also opposition to local variation in care and a desire for common standards.
  • Much lower public support for social care and welfare benefits
    The high public support for the NHS is in marked contrast to the low support for spending on welfare benefits and social care.
  • Marked generational differences in attitudes
    There are marked generational differences, both in satisfaction with services and in support of spend on welfare.  Polling shows that younger generations are markedly less satisfied and less supportive of investment in welfare.

Key uncertainties

  • Attitudes to the NHS
    As pressures on funding and demand for services grow in the NHS, what will the political response be?  Will funding grow or continue to be curtailed? Will the NHS be able to maintain current standards? If standards fall, will the current degree of public support be sustained? 
  • Attitudes to social care
    What will be the impact of the proposed changes to social care funding? Will the rise in the numbers of people dependent on social care support shift current attitudes? Will growing demands for dignity and respect from a generally more assertive older population change the quality of services and people’s experience of care?

Next page: Public expectations and experience of services