Most people would be willing to see the UK’s national debt increase if it meant the NHS had more money, a new poll has revealed.
The study for Britain Elects by pollsters D-CYFOR, shared with HuffPost UK, reveals 54% want to see an increase in public spending, with 68% saying they would want the cash to go towards the health service.
Overall, 59% said they would be prepared for the country’s national debt - which governments have spent nearly a decade trying to bring down - to rise to facilitate additional investment, but almost half admitted they had no idea what the total currently stood at.
Labour and Lib Dem MPs have called for an urgent rethink on NHS spending to tackle what they say is a winter crisis, with thousands of operations cancelled, waiting times up and staff over-stretched.
Dr Paul Williams, MP for Stockton South and a practising GP, told HuffPost UK: “The NHS needs both more money and a different strategy. If we keep doing the same thing, the country will just spend increasing amounts every year on providing more and more hospital beds.
“With better non-hospital services in community health and social care, we could look after people better in their own homes and prevent many unnecessary hospital admissions.
“We’ve seen a reduction of almost 5,000 community nurses since 2010 and a 45% reduction in district nurses.
“So we do need more money - but it has to be money spent in the right places - community health and social care - not just on more hospitals.
“The public recognise this, and politicians should be listening to the people.”
The poll shows health is overwhelmingly at the forefront of people’s minds, with just 7% saying they would want to see education spending made a priority, 7% for housing, 5% for welfare and 4% pensions.
Jeremy Hunt apologised earlier this month to patients whose non-urgent operations had been cancelled, but insisted the health service was better prepared than ever before to deal with the pressures of winter.
Lib Dem leader Vince Cable said: “The crisis in the NHS, with more than 50,000 operations postponed this month, illustrates the need for more funding in our health and social care.
“The public wants politicians to deal with this problem as a matter of urgency and for us to be honest about how to do so.
“The honest policy, which we have argued for, is to put a penny in the pound on income tax to tackle this funding gap.”
Hospital doctors, GPs and other healthcare staff across the country have spoken out about the pressures they face on a daily basis, with patients left waiting in hospital corridors for hours on end and ambulances queuing outside Accident and Emergency units.
One London-based doctor said: “We are getting to the point now where we are being told there are no beds in the hospital.
“If we have no beds then there’s no beds anywhere else because we are a thousand-bedded hospital, we usually have the capacity and services to create space.
“If it gets any worse we are going to face a serious crisis.”
Theresa May has insisted her government is prioritising the NHS, with more than £6bn in extra spending announced for frontline services in Philip Hammond’s autumn budget.
The D-CYFOR survey for Britain Elects interviewed a representative online sample of 1,015 adults aged 18+ over the course of 19-20 January 2017. The results have been weighted to reflect the profile of all UK adults. D-CYFOR is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.