What does the latest YouGov poll tell us about public attitudes to health and social care in Wales?
ITV Wales’ new opinion poll undertaken by YouGov and published this week delves into areas that are rarely polled in Wales – attitudes to health and social care.
ITV Wales have chosen to highlight the finding that some two-thirds of people faced with a health concern did not seek medical advice at some point during their lives. However, frustratingly the follow-up question suggests that most didn’t think the concern was that serious; but this leaves us wondering if these respondents had a bad cold that fizzled out after a week or did they have a significant health issue and delayed seeking advice on it?
The poll then tests out the support for some form of payment for elements of NHS services.
Here we find significant support for the principle of a free NHS at the point of delivery. This support is a clear majority amongst every group – and amongst the voters of all three main parties.
This pro-NHS position is reinforced when people are asked about their confidence in the actual performance of the NHS.
This is also underscored by the views on the performance of the Welsh Government handling NHS Wales, where a majority of respondents (50-36) rate the handling well – a finding that Welsh ministers will certainly be pleased with given the challenges of COVID and the omicron variant.
Finally, on the health service, the survey asks respondents to assess how much of an impact different groups can have on improving the NHS in Wales. Here we generate a score by subtracting those who think the group can have little impact from those who think they can have a lot i.e. the higher the score the higher the perceived impact.
There are at least two puzzles here – one is the relatively high impact that voters of all political shades believe that the UK Government can have on the Welsh NHS. This could be a reflection of the influence the UK Government has on the funding envelope available to the Welsh Government to spend on the NHS, or are these nuanced perspectives that reflect the impact on cross-border decisions on health care or even possibly a rather more troubling lack of understanding of devolution?
The other curiosity is the lack of Conservative belief in the power of patients to change the NHS for better. Again, if that finding is replicated in future surveys, it would be a fascinating finding to tease out different views of the NHS across different political perspectives.
There were also a set of questions posed about Social Care – a major feature in the Labour-Plaid cooperation agreement. When asked how worried they are about the cost of social care – most voters express a worry – the total worried outnumbers the less worried 51-37; but the numbers very worried are relatively low (16%).
The survey then asks who should pay for social care – the government, individuals or a mixture of both.
The very low figures suggesting the individuals should shoulder the burden entirely themselves is unsurprising, but the numbers from all supporters of all parties advocating a mixed model of funding social care is illustrative. It may of course reflect a lack of public debate in Wales about the costs of social care, as illustrated by the numbers worried by the costs.
However, as the policies relating to social care receive a higher profile in future months it will be fascinating to track whether attitudes shift markedly amongst the electorate as the issue gains wider prominence.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,009 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13th – 16th December 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
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