Forty-two percent of the public are willing to pay more tax to support the NHS, as public sense of the financial crisis facing the service grows, suggest findings of the latest British Social Attitudes Survey by NatCen.
The results show that nearly everyone (93 percent) now believes the NHS has a funding problem, and that 32 percent consider the problem severe, up from 19 percent in 2014.
On the plus side, just 23 percent reported being dissatisfied with the NHS in 2015, down from levels of 50 percent in 1997.
While the 2015 figure is eight percentage points above that reported in the prior year, 2014 saw the lowest level of dissatisfaction with the NHS since the survey began in 1983 (15 percent), and thus the latest figure remains historically low, notes think tank The King's Fund.
Key reasons for dissatisfaction include: the time it takes to get an appointment (hospital or GP); a lack of staff (44 percent); lack of funding (39 percent); and waste of money (35 percent). Just 3 percent of respondents reported being influenced by negative stories in the media.
Overall, 84 percent of those who said they were dissatisfied chose a reason relating to resources in some form and, along similar lines, analysis of findings by The King's Fund also showed that 45 percent of those who are dissatisfied think the NHS has a "severe" funding problem compared with just 26 percent of those who are satisfied.
Out of those backing extra taxes to help fill the funding gap, around a quarter favoured some form of separate tax specifically earmarked for the NHS), while nearly 20 percent said they would be willing to pay more through existing taxes.
When it comes to other possible ways of addressing the NHS's funding problem, just a quarter (26 percent) of the public would support limiting the NHS to those on lower incomes, while only 15 percent would be willing to pay £10 for each visit to a GP or local A&E department. According to NatCen, "this suggests that the public hold dear the founding principles of the NHS: that it should be universal and free at the point of use".
Commenting on the findings, King's Fund chief economist John Appleby noted that the public is "virtually unanimous in its view that the NHS is facing a funding crisis".
"Despite satisfaction with the NHS being high by historical standards, it has remained fairly flat over the last few years," he said. "But with five more years of planned funding restraint, it remains to be seen how attitudes towards the NHS and the public's willingness to accept solutions to the funding problems will develop".