Social Justice

Key public services are in bad shape across the board, say most Brits – with NHS faring the worst

This year has seen police scandals, an NHS crisis and train services grind to a halt – it's perhaps no surprise people think public services are in a bad shape

nhs

NHS workers demand better conditions and pay. Image: Unsplash

Most people in the UK believe public services are in a bad state after more than a decade of austerity, with the NHS faring worst.

YouGov asked Brits about 12 key public services, most of which are considered to be inadequate by the majority of people.

A total of 86% of the public believe that the NHS is in a bad state, with more than half considering it to be in a “very bad” state.

More than 10 years of underfunding, staff shortages and a workforce exhausted by the pandemic has led to long waiting lists and patients struggling to get the urgent care they need.

It comes amid another round of doctors’ strikes this week, as NHS workers continue to fight for better pay and conditions. NHS England has estimated that around 1 million appointments and operations have already been cancelled as a result of NHS strikes.

“As we move towards winter, we expect further pressure on local health services, with many systems already reporting that they are under the highest level of stress, demand and pressure,” Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation said.

“Something desperately needs to change to move this dispute forwards. We urge the government and the BMA [British Medical Association] to get back round the table before it’s too late for the service and the people they care for.”

More specific health services are given similarly harsh reviews by the public – 81% of people think hospitals are performing poorly, while it’s 78% for GPs and social care.

Trains have also come out poorly in the survey, with seven in 10 believing they are in a bad state. Trains have repeatedly ground to a halt this year amid strike action over pay and conditions, causing travel disruption across the country.

More than two thirds believe police services are performing poorly – with a series of scandals over the last few years no doubt playing a part.

Sarah Everard, Chris Kaba and Child Q are just a few where the failings of the Metropolitan Police have been brought under the spotlight. Greater Manchester Police officers face accusations of gross sexual misconduct, unjustified strip searches and other offences.

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YouGov research from earlier this year showed that there is little trust among ethnic minorities for the police to deal with local crime, with half saying they don’t have much (31%) or any confidence (19%). 

People who have had to interact with crime-related public services – police, prisons, and courts and the justice system – in the last 12 months are particularly likely to say those services are in a bad way compared to the wider public.

For people who have experienced the prison system in some way over the last 12 months, 81% believe it is performing poorly. A total of 72% of people who have used or interacted with courts and justice system say the service is not good, 15% higher than the wider public.

That gap is even higher for people who have had to deal with the police, with 76% of them believing police are doing a bad job.

Half of people think bus services are in a bad shape, while 40% think they are doing fine. The armed forces fare better, with 43% thinking they are in a good shape.

But half of people who have interacted with the armed forces in some way in the last year came away with the impression that things are not going well.

The only public service most people think is in strong form is the fire brigade. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you are a Conservative or Labour voter – both groups say that most of the key public services are in a bad shape.

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