2024 Election hub
Urgent: Appeal Campaign Title here about 10 words here

Oct 1st, 2023

NHS waits a ‘ticking electoral timebomb’ – according to our new polling

By Matthew McGregor

The Government must make honouring long-overdue promises on cutting NHS waits a top priority as parties head to their annual conferences, our new poll of more than 10,000 people shows. 

Stunningly, 31% of voters said a close friend or family member had endured a six month plus wait for vital care. It’s shocking, but it is not surprising.

The poll has been released to pile pressure on Rishi Sunak during his party conference in Manchester this week. And it was all made possible by donations from 38 Degrees supporters who chipped in an average of £7.82 each to pay for the poll and our campaign. 

Our supporters have been telling us that making sure everyone who needs it can access NHS care will be at the forefront of their minds at the next election. So we commissioned respected pollsters Survation to tell us more about how Britain feels about access to NHS treatment. 

The results could hardly have been more stark.

Survation’s poll shows that people feel they’re waiting too long to access treatment at every level: from nearly 1 in 4 waiting for vital procedures to over 4 in 10 struggling to reach their GP.

The political ramifications are clear: when asked to identify the top three issues facing the country, 52% of voters  picked ‘the NHS/health’ – second only to cost of living and significantly higher than all other issues. 

The issue cuts across party lines and will be a vital one for any party hoping to convince the public: NHS was identified as a top three issue by a majority of 2019 Con (51%), Lab (59%), Lib Dem (59%), and all other voters (51%). 

When voters were asked about accessing NHS care in their local area:

  • 24% said they’d personally been waiting for NHS treatment for the last six months or longer.
  • Asked about loved ones’ experiences accessing care, 31% said a close friend or family member had endured a six month plus wait.
  • 42% said they’d personally struggled to get a GP appointment in the last six months, while 49% said a close friend or family member had struggled to book a GP appointment.
  • One in four – 25% – felt they had experienced waiting six hours or more in A&E – while 32% said the same of a close friend or family member.

We already know that growing NHS waiting times have been a ticking timebomb for years – this polling shows this issue is set to explode at the next election. 

It is unreal that more than a third of people say that someone they love is on a waiting list for NHS care. Up and down the country, in every community, people who vote are waiting for operations. They are waiting at every stage of the healthcare service: from struggling to get GP appointments to queueing in A&E.

In every seat, voters are worried, anxious, and angry – often living in pain or discomfort as a direct result of Rishi Sunak’s failure to deliver his promise to bring waiting times down. 

Rishi Sunak told the public to hold him to account if NHS waiting times didn’t fall – but so far, he’s delivered nothing but excuses. 

As the spotlight shines on party conferences pledges in the coming weeks, it’s clear what voters will be looking to both the Conservative and Labour party for: an end to the current broken promises, and instead real guarantees of action to urgently slash wait times for all NHS treatment.

While the current Government may try to shift blame onto hard working NHS staff, voters know this is a long-standing political crisis, with a political solution. The 38 Degrees team and our supporters up and down the country will continue to pile on the pressure and ensure all parties deliver a clear, realistic plan that means we and our loved ones are no longer left waiting months, unable to access the care we need. 

The full poll

You can view all of the tables for this poll here

Survation undertook this research on behalf of 38 Degrees, with fieldwork carried out between 11th and 25th September on a sample of 10, 334 residents aged 18+ living in the UK. Data were weighted to the profile of all adults in the UK aged 18+. 

Data were weighted by age, sex, region, highest level of qualification, annual equivalised household income, 2019 General Election Vote, and 2016 EU Referendum Vote.

Discover more

Latest News

View more latest news
Want to make a difference?

Start a petition for…

Myself or my family
Get started
My local community
Get started
A national interest
Get started