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Brits prioritise better pay for health and care staff above waiting times

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The British public wants to see improvements in pay and working conditions for NHS and social care staff before addressing their own personal healthcare needs, such as reducing wait times, according to a new report.

The study, from new charity Engage Britain, asked the UK public to rank a range of issues facing the nation in order of priority. The findings show that the challenges faced by the health and care sector have united the nation as the primary concern across all demographics.

When asked to list their top three priorities for health and care, almost two fifths (39%) state that improving pay and conditions for healthcare workers is among the most important.

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Equally pressing is the need to address staff shortages in the NHS and social care, with 39% also featuring the issue in their top three.

Reducing wait times faced for GP and hospital appointments was found to be of lesser importance than addressing the challenges faced by those working in health and care, with only a third (33%) choosing access to timely care in their top three priorities for improving the system. 

Engage Britain director, Julian McCrae, said: “Despite the portrayal of a divided nation, whichever way we look at our data – whether that’s by age, gender, location or political allegiances – concern for health and care access is ranked number one.

“It is encouraging to find many of us thinking of NHS and care staff before our own needs – their heroic behaviour throughout this pandemic has galvanised support for suitable pay and working conditions for those involved.”

Addressing racial inequality linked to health and life expectancy was ranked as the lowest priority, with just 8% of respondents choosing this issue as one of their top three priorities. However, this was a higher priority issue for those from Black, Asian, Chinese, mixed-Ethnic, or other Ethnic backgrounds (not including White), where almost one in four prioritised investigating and addressing the inequalities linked to race (23%) in their top three priorities. 

Meanwhile, two fifths (40%) of younger respondents (aged 18-34) ranked the need to increase mental health support in their top three priorities for improving health and care systems, compared to 16% of the older generation, aged 55 and over.

And when it came to providing additional funding to boost health and care services, older respondents were most likely to support an increase in taxes – three quarters (75%) of those aged 55 and over agreed with funding the NHS through increased tax revenue, compared to a lower 54% of those under 35-years-old. 

Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke

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