A new survey shows that Britain would be willing to pay more tax in order to keep the NHS healthy. 

This is according to a new Ipsos Mori poll, which shows that 48% of over 1,000 British adults surveyed at the end of November said they would increase the tax they pay to maintain the current level of care and services provided by the NHS.

This is versus 11% of those surveyed who said that would reduce services provided by the NHS so that the UK Government will not increase taxation. One in five (21%) said they would opt for reducing spending on other services such as education and welfare to pay for it.

The remaining 20% said they would not choose any of the options above, or didn’t know which was best.

Dan Wellings, a research director at Ipsos Mori, said the results should be taken with some caution: “We need to remember that asking people whether taxes should be increased and asking them to actually pay them are two very different things. Moreover, we did not provide a figure on how much more people might need to pay.

“Further work would be needed to determine what might be acceptable. Despite this it is clear that people are willing to consider tough solutions rather than reduce the level of care and service provided. It is this that is perhaps most pertinent to those working in the NHS at the moment.

“Tough choices will have to be made on what is provided and they will inevitably meet with strong resistance.”

The firm’s poll suggests that that the focus of the health community has shifted away from the major reform of the NHS, which became law in April.

Instead the concern has come back to the NHS’ finances and the Nicholson Challenge. Currently, the NHS must find £20 billion in savings between 2009 and 2015, whilst also being given only a 0.1% real-time rise in funding from the UK Government.

Last week the King’s Fund think-tank published its report on the health of the NHS’ finances. It found that the health service is currently on track to meet its financial requirements, but warned that the scale of savings needed – coinciding with major reform of NHS management – is increasing the risk of fiscally unstable service.

Mind the funding gap
The Nuffield Trust, which commissioned the Ipsos Mori poll, has also released new figures that show the NHS could also experience a £44-£54 billion funding gap in over the next decade unless it delivers unprecedented productivity gains, or public finances improve enough to allow health funding to increase faster than inflation.

The report states that this shortfall would shrink to between £28 billion and £34 billion in 2021/22, assuming that productivity improves in-line with the Nicholson Challenge - but funding then remained flat in real terms, it notes.