NHS No Better Under Labour – Poll

Four in 10 people in England do not believe the NHS has got better under Labour, a poll says. The British Medical Association said the findings should act as a “stark message” to Gordon Brown as he prepares to become prime minister this week.

The survey of more than 1,000 people, released by the BMA ahead of their conference, also showed support for an independent board to run the NHS. There are suggestions Mr Brown is keen on the idea. Other ministers have claimed it would not be a good move.

Earlier this month, Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt spoke out against the idea of an independent board, saying it could become like a “1960s nationalised industry” and act as a barrier to change.

The idea, which received the backing of 60% of the public, has already been put forward by the BMA and last week the Tories also called for a similar system.

The call to depoliticise the NHS comes as many people say they are disappointed with Labour’s record on the health service. The survey, conducted between June 4-6, revealed that 42% of people believed the NHS had not got better, with 24% neither agreeing nor not agreeing. A third said they thought it had got better.

Just over half also said they would be prepared to pay a small charge for some services. It was not clear what the public had in mind – the BMA suggested it was likely to be prescription charging – although some doctors have suggested patients pay for minor operations such as treatment for varicose veins and hernias.

Dr Sam Everington, acting chairman of the BMA, said: “This is a stark message. It is clear doctors and patients have similar views about the reforms we have seen. It is time to take the politics and meddling out of the NHS and allow an independent board to be responsible for the day to day running of the health service.”

During the BMA conference, being held in Torquay over the next four days, a series of motions will be heard criticising the use of the private sector and closing of hospital A&E departments.

In response to the survey, a Department of Health spokesperson said: “The BMA survey of 1,000 people is interesting but last month the Healthcare Commission survey of more than 80,000 NHS patients showed that 92% rated the care they received as good or excellent. This is the public’s real verdict on the state of the NHS today.”

The spokesperson added: “The NHS has been totally transformed from what it was 10 years ago. Today we have over half of all patients treated within 18 weeks of referral and deaths from cancer reduced by 20% in the under 75s.”