The majority of taxpayers in the UK would be willing to pay more tax to provide more funds for the NHS since the outbreak of COVID-19, a poll shows.
Almost two-thirds (63%) of people would be happy to pay more tax to fund healthcare in the UK, rising to 71% of people aged over 50, the research shows.
However, the study, by global software consultancy ThoughtWorks, found that over a quarter (26%) believe that rather than raising taxes, technology could offer taxpayers better value for money and a more efficient NHS. Just 6% would accept cuts in this area in order to keep their tax payment down.
The findings come at a time when appreciation for the country’s public services is at a high, with 65% of people say they value their hospitals more now than they did before the start of the pandemic.
Proportion prepared to pay more income tax to support each area of public services
The survey, carried out for Thoughtworks by Maru Blue among a nationally representative sample of 2,041, also found that 56% would be happy to pay more tax to improve emergency services, 45% to improve social care, and 45% to improve mental health services.
However, in several areas the majority of taxpayers believed technology had the ability to improve efficiencies without the need for tax hikes. For example, twice as many respondents believed efficiencies driven by technology, rather than tax increases, were the answer to improving probation services, prisons, higher education and public health campaigns.
The poll also found that in the next 10 years, 30% believe they would be able to speak with their GP via Skype, 27% believe there will be an online medical passport and almost a quarter (22%) believe medicines could be automatically re-prescribed.
Seven per cent of people polled believe robots will replace frontline staff in hospitals.
How people believe technology will change the way they will use the health services in 10 years’ time
David Howell, Portfolio Director – Public Sector, ThoughtWorks, said that the “unprecedented” challenges the NHS has faced in 2020 has led to a “fundamental shift in appreciation and support from the public”.
But he said: “High-quality healthcare designed to meet the challenges faced both now and in the future, comes with a price tag. While there is growing preference for tax increases as the best way to meet costs, many can see the huge potential for efficiencies powered by technology. This is the case not just for the NHS, but for every aspect of the public sector.
“Technology has been at the heart of the Government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Under intense pressure, the recent months have exposed areas of weakness that an increasingly tech-savvy public will no longer put up with. In the longer-term, these inefficiencies will add up, costing the taxpayer ultimately. In order to continue to meet the rising expectations of a public who rightly demand more for less, considerable investment in technology is needed.”