Nine out of 10 fear NHS cuts

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The Independent Online

Nine out of 10 people fear NHS services will be cut as a result of the recession while some would be willing to pay more taxes, according to a poll out today.

The survey of 1,071 people from across the UK found 89% also fear waiting times for treatment will increase.

A total of 85% think there will be more charges for NHS treatments while 80% believe the health service should prioritise funding for the most important services.

The survey was released by the British Medical Association (BMA) on the eve of its annual conference in Liverpool.

More than three-quarters (77%) of the public said cuts should be made in other government departments to protect NHS funding in the recession.

Four out of 10 (40%) would also be willing to pay more taxes to protect the growth of NHS funding in the future.

Meanwhile, 73% called for less political involvement in the way the NHS is organised and run and 40% do not have confidence the Government can safeguard the NHS in the current climate.

However, 95% thought doctors and nurses could do the job of safeguarding the NHS in the recession.

The public was also asked about the involvement of the private sector in providing NHS services.

A total of 59% said they supported private involvement in the health service but almost half (47%) said there should be no further contracts for commercial companies.

More than five out of 10 (55%) said the NHS "internal market", which creates competition, should be abolished.

And 77% wanted patients and other members of the public to have a greater say in how the NHS delivers health services.

BMA chairman, Dr Hamish Meldrum, said: "These results show how anxious the public is about the effects of the recession on the health service, with a significant number saying taxes should increase to protect NHS funding.

"No-one wants to see any cuts in the public sector but our poll reveals just how much society values their health service.

"Fear often goes hand in hand with economic slumps, with people worrying what will happen to them and their families in times of ill health.

"While we appreciate that the Government needs to steer the country through this difficult economic period, we urge it not to do so at the expense of NHS funding.

"People always need good quality healthcare and it would be a huge mistake to try and make savings by squeezing the NHS."

Dr Meldrum said the BMA "heartily" agreed with the public, which thinks the Government's "dogmatic and misguided plan to commercialise the NHS" had gone too far and was threatening the future of the health service.