An overwhelming majority of British adults (85%) are concerned about the future of the NHS. And 91% agree that political parties should work together to ensure that we can rely on the health and care services we need as we get older. That’s according to a new poll for Independent Age [1], the older people’s charity, conducted by ComRes.

This Friday sees the second reading of the National Health Service and Social Care (Commission) Bill, calling for an independent commission on the future of health and social care in England. As the proposals are again put before Parliament, the polling shows that three quarters (74%) of British adults agree that an independent commission should be set up to review how we should fund and run the NHS and care for elderly and disabled people in England. 

Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said:

“Our health and social care systems are under pressure like never before and it is abundantly clear from this polling that the public want politicians of all parties to come together to secure the future of these vital services. These issues are too important to be left up to the usual Westminster party politics”

The proposal for an independent commission has the backing of MPs from across the political divide, as well as former Conservative and Labour Health Secretaries Stephen Dorrell and Alan Milburn, and former Liberal Democrat Care Minister Norman Lamb MP. In January, forty organisations – including Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie, British Red Cross and Independent Age – signed an open letter urging the Prime Minister to make the commission a reality. 

The polling highlights that support spans the political spectrum in the public too, with 93% of Conservative supporters, 95% of Liberal Democrat supporters and 91% of Labour and UKIP supporters polled agreeing that parties should work together to ensure that we can rely on the health and care services we need as we get older. 

The polling also reveals that:

  • Four-fifths of British adults (81%) are concerned about the impact of an ageing population on the NHS and care services in Britain
  • Half of British adults think the level of service in the NHS (51%) and care services for the elderly and disabled (47%) have worsened over the past 12 months
  • Nearly two-thirds of Britons are not confident that the UK Government will ensure high standards in the NHS (61%) and care for elderly and disabled people (64%) in the future
  • More than four-fifths of British adults (86%) agree that  people with direct experience of health and care services (like patients, doctors, elderly and disabled people) should be involved in deciding the future of these services

Public support for an independent commission comes amid growing pressures on health and social care. Almost a quarter of the population will be over the age of 65 in twenty years’ time [2]. The Kings Fund recently announced they expect NHS Trusts to be £2.3 billion in deficit by the end of this year [3]. Meanwhile, social care budgets have been reduced by £4.6 billion since 2009-2010 [4].

And while 400,000 fewer people received social care support in 2013/14 compared to five years earlier [5], more than half a million hospital bed days were lost in 2015 because of ‘delayed transfers of care’ (otherwise healthy patients stuck in hospital beds) because social care support was not in place [6].

Janet Morrison, Chief Executive of Independent Age, said:

“Our creaking social care system is clearly not fit for purpose, with tens of thousands of frail and elderly people struggling by without support.  And our health system keeps too many older people in hospital, unable to leave because care isn’t available for them in the community. The Government must listen to the public’s concerns and establish an independent, cross party commission to look beyond the immediate challenges to a long-term, stable solution for health and social care.”

Norman Lamb MP, former Lib Dem care minister who tabled the Private Members’ Bill, said:

“Partisan politics has failed to fix the growing cracks in health and social care, and it is now clearer than ever that the public has had enough. The need for a new cross-party approach is overwhelming. Patient groups, think tanks, medical royal colleges and MPs from across the political spectrum agree that a new Beveridge Commission is urgently needed to confront this challenge and secure a sustainable future for the system. The Government must sit up and take notice before it’s too late.”

Dr Dan Poulter MP, former Conservative health minister and NHS doctor, said:

“There is an increasingly compelling case for political parties to work together to establish a long term consensus for the NHS and care well before the next Election. We must build on the work of the Five Year Forward View and the Barker Commission, to urgently achieve a responsible long-term consensus now. So I call on both Government and Opposition to urgently start work on a cross-party NHS/Social Care Commission.”

Liz Kendall MP, former Labour shadow health minister, said:

"The challenges the NHS and social care face are bigger now than at any point in our history. NHS finances are under huge strain, many are not receiving the care they need and, as our population ages, demand for care will increase. This is about how we look after our mums and dads. We must face up to the big issue of how we fund services to ensure they are fit for the future. We can no longer expect services, staff and the families who need care to try to struggle through."


For media and interview requests, please call Euan Holloway, Senior Media and PR Manager, on 020 7605 4286, mobile 07701 008248 or email

  1. Findings are based a ComRes poll of 2,014 adults in Great Britain, conducted online between 24th and 25th February 2016. Results were weighted to be representative of all adults in Great Britain aged 18+. 
  2. 2014-based National Population Projections, October 2015 - Office for National Statistics.
  3. How is the NHS performing: quarterly monitoring report – The King’s Fund
  4. ADASS Budget Survey 2015: Report – Association of Directors of Adult Social Services
  5. Community Care Statistics 2013/14, October 2014 - Health and Social Care Information Centre
  6. Delayed Transfers of Care Data 2015-16 – NHS England 

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