Public fed up with lifestyle losers’ drain on NHS

AXA poll provides pre-election healthcheck

15 March 2010

Posted in Product

by Daniel O’Byrne (see media contact)

An AXA PPP healthcare survey1 released today points to popular resistance to NHS spending on treatment of lifestyle related medical conditions.

Seventy-eight per cent of people believe that binge drinkers who end up in casualty as a result of their excesses should be charged to help pay for their hospital treatment - a sentiment with which 89% of retired people, 86% of the over-55s and, perhaps surprisingly, 71% of students agree.

And, asked where spending could be reined in to help cut NHS costs, 34% specify treatment of drinking related conditions; 28% pick treatment of smoking related conditions and 26% go for stop-smoking aids such as patches. Twenty-six per cent say that obesity treatment should be cut.

Complementary medicine such as homeopathy and acupuncture is another popular candidate for the chop - 35% reckon the NHS should cut back spending on these. On the other hand, people strongly back NHS spending on hearing aids and dentistry - only 1% and 2% of respondents, respectively, think that these should take a hit.

Fergus Craig, AXA PPP healthcare commercial director, comments:

"The idea that people should take greater personal responsibility for their health and, where they've knowingly contributed to worsening their condition, its treatment is evidently popular and, with increasing pressure on the public purse, this may be something for the next government to consider.

"What our research also shows is what people really want is quicker diagnosis of serious illnesses such as cancer - it's their foremost concern, followed by shorter waiting lists, access to GPs out of surgery hours and long term care for the elderly."

With the General Election looming, opinions are divided over which party would be best at managing the NHS - only 20% of women think that Labour would be best at doing this, compared with 32% of men. As for the Conservatives being best, 22% of women and 25% of men think that this is the case. But there is considerable uncertainty as to which party has got what it takes and 42% of women just don't know, compared with 24% of men.

Despite the NHS' efforts to address the problem of hospital superbugs, 49% of respondents are not confident that their local hospital has managed to get infections like MRSA and C difficile under control.

And, when it comes to funding, despite years of unprecedented spending on the NHS, only 27% of respondents agree that the extra billions has been "money well spent" - 23% of women versus 32% of men.

GPs, with an average annual salary of over £100,000, also come under fire in the survey, with 65% of respondents agreeing that they are overpaid. Fifty-nine per cent would also like GPs to be legally responsible for the deputising locum doctors who treat their patients out of surgery hours (responsibility for this generally rests with the primary care trusts that employ the out-of-hours doctors).

And, when it comes to primary care, healthcare choices are important too: there is considerable support for the idea that NHS patients should be able to register with a GP in the place of their choosing rather than being limited to picking one from their local area - 65% of respondents agree with this, including 69% of women and 72% of Londoners.

On the other hand, freedom to choose takes a knock when it came to childbirth choices. There is considerable resistance by women to women being free to opt for a Caesarean section regardless of their medical needs: 62% of women disagree that Caesarean sections should be available on demand. Men are more relaxed about this, with only 44% saying they are against Caesareans being available on demand.