93% of the public are unaware of the level of savings the NHS will have to make over the next three years, according to a new poll for the RCN.
The YouGov poll of over 4,000 UK adults looked at the public’s understanding of NHS savings and their attitudes towards the health service. Just 7% correctly identified that the NHS was being asked to make up to £20 billion in savings from its budget over the next three years. A third were unaware the NHS would need to make any savings at all during the same period.
Just one in three of those polled believed it would be possible for the NHS to make the savings required without affecting patient care.
The public highlighted both quality and equity as NHS priorities for the next government. Listing their top three priorities these were: spending NHS money more efficiently (55%), ending the postcode lottery over treatment (44%) and providing enough nurses to deliver safe care (31%).
Dr Peter Carter, RCN chief executive and general secretary said:
“These results come as politicians of all parties look at ways to make savings in the NHS. While we understand that we need to tighten our belts and work more efficiently, we agree with the public who say that it is not possible to make savings of the magnitude asked for without affecting patient care.
“We are deeply concerned that to meet efficiency savings we are already seeing short-sighted cuts for example in vital specialist nurse posts, mandatory training, and in reduced staffing levels We cannot be clearer – making slash and burn cuts to save budgets will damage patient care and risk reversing many of the improvements made in recent years. Making financial ends meet must never come ahead of patient care.”
Dr Carter added: “Our message to all political parties seeking to govern is clear – while there may be financial challenges ahead, to ensure patient safety we need safe staffing levels, time for nurses to train and sustained investment in services, staff and facilities. Only by building on the progress we have made will we have a health service that delivers the care that the public believe is possible in the future.”