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UK Insights

Brexit worries start to focus on NHS

Luke Taylor

Head of Social and Political Attitudes

Politics 17.08.2018 / 05:00


UK voters are getting more concerned about what leaving the EU would do to standards of healthcare, finds Kantar Public

The bright red bus ‘promising’ £350 million for the NHS was the defining image of the Leave campaign, and subsequently became one of the most controversial issues post-referendum. There is growing concern now among the UK public that leaving the EU may damage, rather than bolster, the standard of care delivered by the NHS. This is the key finding from the August edition of the Kantar Public Brexit Barometer, the monthly survey tracking a representative sample of the population’s attitudes toward Brexit-related issues.

Since 2014, investing more in healthcare has been the highest public policy priority for Britons. More recently, healthcare investment has been one of the few areas of agreement betweenLeaveandRemainvoters. 52% ofRemainvoters rate healthcare investment as a top three public policy priority, while 47% ofLeavevoters rate it in their top three priorities.

Over the last year, concern about the impact leaving the EU will have on the NHS has consistently outstripped the view that standards of care will improve (see chart below). For the first time, however, belief that leaving the EU will damage the standard of care in the NHS has become the most prevalent view in the UK, overtaking those who believe it will have no impact (33%  Vs 30%). Slightly more than one in four (26%) of the public believe leaving the EU will improve the standard of care. Concern for the NHS is, unsurprisingly, greatest among Remain voters –   almost half of whom (46%) believe standards of care will decline. Almost on in five (19%) of Leavers now believe the standard of care in the NHS will decline compared to 15% in November last year.

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Commenting on the findings Michelle Harrison, CEO, Kantar Public observed: “We have seen commentary come to the fore around Brexit and the challenges it poses for staffing, as well as concern around interruptions to the drug supply chain. Clearly these conversations are informing and impacting public perception.”

More broadly, the UK government is widely perceived to be doing a poor job in handling Brexit negotiations. Almost two in three (63%) believe the government is doing a poor job at handling Brexit negotiations, up from 60% last month, and up from 55% in November 2017. Those approving of the Government’s performance has fallen to a new low of one in five (19%).

Other findings from this month’s Barometer include weakening economic sentiment across the UK as Britain enters the key stages of Brexit negotiations. 

36% of Britons think the economy will be doing worse in a year’s time (the highest figure since December 2011 – 37%). 52% of those who voted “Remain” in the EU referendum think the economy will be worse in a year, compared with 18% of Leave voters. Only 1 in 4 Leave voters (26%) think Brexit will have an immediately positive impact on the UK economy next year.

Those who think the government is doing a good job of managing the economy has fallen to a low of 17%, the lowest level since March 2013 (also 17%). 40% of the population now think the government is doing a poor job of managing the economy – the highest level in five years.

If a new EU referendum were held, 40% of the public currently support “Remain” (no change) and 35% support “Leave”, up from 32% in July. Prior non-voters are now more likely to say they would vote Remain (32%) than Leave (13%)

General election voting intentions remain largely unchanged compared with our poll in mid-July: Conservative 40% (nc), Labour 39% (+1), Lib Dems 9% (nc), SNP 4% (nc), UKIP 4% (+1), Green 3% (nc), PC 1% (nc), Other 1% (-1).

Source : Kantar Public

Editor's Notes

Methodological information

The survey data and further details on the methodological approach can be found here.

1,119 interviews were conducted online among adults living in Great Britain between 9th and 13th August 2018. Interviews were conducted using the Kantar TNS Research Express Online Omnibus, which uses the Lightspeed access panel as its sample source.

The data was weighted to match population totals for age, gender, working status, 2017 General Election voting patterns, 2016 EU referendum voting patterns, education, region, and likelihood to vote in the next General Election. Any use of this research must cite Kantar Public as the source

About Kantar Public

Providing the insights for public policy. Innovative consulting and research solutions. For a better public realm. Kantar Public is a global consulting and research business, providing public policy services to government, the public sector, and corporations. Kantar Public operates across the world, with permanent, fully staffed offices in every continent, to share global best practice through local expertise. As an operating brand within Kantar and the WPP group of companies, we are one of the world’s leading social research and consulting partners to governments.

For more information please visit or @KantarPublic

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