Our NHS survey

The NHS has improved significantly over the years with more advanced and high-cost treatments becoming available which support patients to live longer and dramatically improve their quality of life. This is good news, but also increases demand for health services. It means that we must make some tough decisions about health priorities.

This is a report of a survey as part of a campaign Our NHS, in April 2017. We asked about people’s priorities for change; selfcare, keeping healthy, changes in prescribing medicines, changes to primary care and other suggestions for greater efficiency.   We head from over 1,000 people and are also including over 700 comments from Let’s Talk engagement in 2016. 

There is acceptance for the need to change: GP and community services, and integration of health and social care are prioritised over mental health and hospital care. 

The graph above shows the percentage of people who put this service first or second choice (hence adding up to more than 100%).  People prioritised GP and community services  as GPs are the first point of contact for many services, and investment here would ease the pressure on other services especially hospitals, and that earlier intervention prevented escalation of problems. People recognised the pressure GP practices are currently under.

Integration between health and social care is seen as very important for elderly patients and a way of helping discharge from hospital, saving money by reducing overheads and administration.  People wanted to see increased funding of social care.

Hospital care is important as it is for those who are most ill and have most urgent need.  Mental health was described as a Cinderella service and should have increased investment.

Concerns were expressed about the low level of investment in the NHS and made calls for more investment especially in frontline, clinical staff

In terms of keeping healthy, people emphasise the need for people to take responsibility for their own health, but equally feel shorter waiting times and having more screening and wellbeing checks are important.

Self care and use of pharmacists

We had 800 responses about how to look after minor illnesses at home with the help of a pharmacist.  Key responses were about education on how to treat minor illnesses, first aid and being able to identify which symptoms require a GP appointments, and promoting the role of pharmacies, feedback on how to make pharmacies more accessible, greater triage at GP surgeries and more nurse appointments available.  Concerns were raised about potential increased delays, potential mis-diagnosis and issues for low income families.

The proposals for changes to prescribing medicines had strong support.

Stopping prescribing over the counter medicines was strongly supported especially for indigestion remedies and pain killers; there was less support (but still positive) for moisturisers, anti-histamines and fungal infection treatment. Concerns raised were the impact on people in lower incomes, the quantity available and quality of products available.

Stopping prescribing gluten free foods was felt to be mostly acceptable; there was more support for restricting the types of food than targeting particular groups.  Issues raised were that gluten free products in shops are more expensive, lower quality, unavailable in some areas and concerns that people will not use them and will become more sick.

There was very positive response to the proposal to improve the repeat prescription approach and this was thought to be a very useful approach.

The ideas of reducing referrals and having specialist GPs locally were accepted but slightly less enthusiastically, and with concerns about whether this represents rationing and prevention of access to secondary care.

Other ideas for increased efficiency were reduction of bureaucracy and administration, reducing the perceived mis-use of the health service.

There were concerns raised about issues for people on low incomes, mental health featured a lot.  Other concerns were raised that we should invest more in the NHS, increase the numbers of clinical staff and improve access to GPs.