More people believe Theresa May and the Conservatives would do a better job than Labour managing the NHS this winter despite many agreeing with the description of the health service facing a “humanitarian crisis”, a new poll suggests.
The ComRes poll for The Independent comes as the Prime Minister faces calls to apologise after “scapegoating” GPs and warning they should offer extended opening hours, amid intensifying pressure on the NHS hospital services.
Downing Street warned surgeries in England, which refuse to move to opening 8am to 8pm, seven days a week will lose funding unless they can prove there is no demand from patients.
Sarah Wollaston, a Conservative MP and chair of the Health Select Committee in Westminster, said: “I do feel this is going to backfire, I think it was the wrong thing to say, and I think frankly they should apologise.
But despite Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, suggesting the NHS is Labour’s “comfort zone” at a speech in London on Saturday, 43 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement: “Theresa May and the Conservatives would do a better job than Jeremy Corbyn and Labour managing the NHS this winter”. Around 30 per cent agreed that Mr Corbyn and Labour would do a better job than the Tories, while 26 per cent responded “don’t know”.
The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, however, has poor personal ratings – a likely reflection of his prolonged battle with the junior doctors over their new contract, which led to historic strikes in the profession across the country. Satisfaction with his performance has fallen since 2013 with a 16-point increase in the proportion of people who disagree that he is doing a good job.
Just 12 per cent of respondents said Mr Hunt was doing a good job while 53 per cent disagreed and 35 per cent said registered “don’t know”.
Just last week the British Red Cross warned the health service was facing a “humanitarian crisis” as the NHS appeared to struggle with rising demand. The organisation’s chief executive Mike Adamson said: “[We are] responding to the humanitarian crisis in our hospital and ambulance services across the country. We have been called in to support the NHS and help get people home from hospital and free up much needed beds.”
When ComRes asked members of the public about the description 47 per cent said the British Red Cross was “right” to use the term vehemently dismissed by the Government. 36 per cent, meanwhile, said the description was “overblowing” the situation. Despite this, sentiment towards the NHS is nonetheless positive, with 71 per cent of respondents believing the health service provides a high standard of care to patients – a 13 point increase on 2013 when ComRes last asked the question.
And it’s clear the vast majority believe that NHS should remain “free at the point of use”. A majority of voters of nearly every party disagree that NHS treatment should chargeable for people who can afford to pay. The only exception being Ukip voters who are split: 39 per cent agree versus 43 per cent who disagree.
ComRes interviewed 2,038 Great British adults online between 11 and 13 January. Full details on ComRes website