Future Health and WPI publish new research on Labour and the NHS

Future Health and sister agency WPI Strategy have today a pamphlet (Labour and the NHS tough choices Oct2023 FINAL) setting out the tough choices and questions facing Labour health policy.

The findings have been covered in today’s Telegraph: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2023/10/06/health-labour-streeting-tories-spending/

Written by Future Health Programme Director Richard Sloggett, the pamphlet includes polling which shows that Labour has big lead over the Conservatives on the NHS but also notes a third of voters don’t trust either party to fix the health system.

46% of voters think that Labour is the party best placed to deliver health service improvements, against just 17% for the Conservatives.

The NHS was the most cited issue at the 2019 general election by voters and with the health service facing unprecedented waiting lists and industrial action, public views on the issue could again be critical in deciding the overall outcome.

The poll of over 1,500 people carried out by Deltapoll for Future Health and WPI Strategy suggests that the public think that Labour is best placed to fix important issues including accessing GPs, improving hospital waiting times and NHS dentistry. Labour is also more trusted to end industrial action by a margin of 22%.


However the polling also contains warnings for the Opposition party. 29% of people do not think either of the main parties can deliver tangible improvements. And voters are clear that they should not have to pay more tax to fund improvements in the NHS, with over half (55%) rejecting any more personal taxes earmarked for the health service.

Key polling findings include:

  • While nearly three times as many people trust Labour (46%) over the Conservatives (17%) to fix the NHS, 29% of people didn’t think either party could make tangible improvements.


  • The public view reducing hospital waiting times as the single, most important issue facing the NHS (53%), followed by increasing the number of doctors and nurses (46%) and accessing a GP (40%).


  • 4 in 10 people aged 18-24 wanted to see mental health services prioritised. For this age group it was the second most pressing issue behind reducing waiting times.


  • Twice as many people think Labour have a better plan to end industrial action by healthcare workers than the Conservatives (38-16%). Although over 1 in 4 people (28%) don’t believe either party has a plan to end the strikes.


  • Over half the country (55%) are unwilling to pay more in tax to improve the NHS compared to 34% who would be open to paying more. Across every age group, in every region of the UK and even among Labour voters, more people said they would not be willing to contribute more in tax to deliver healthcare improvements.



With a substantial lead on the NHS but with little public appetite for more personal taxation to fund improvements, Future Health and WPI Strategy’s accompanying pamphlet to the polling argues that Labour needs to make tough choices in a series of health policy areas to make meaningful progress.


Whilst Labour has committed to a workforce expansion, it’s plans in important reform areas such as prevention, primary care, capital spending, social care and recovering performance all remain unclear.


Richard Sloggett, Former Government Special Adviser and Programme Director at Future Health said: “The Labour party has learnt the right lessons from its 2019 defeat. Voters don’t want to hear scare stories about privatisation, instead they want to hear about real change and how access to services will be improved. The Government’s NHS travails and Labour’s refreshed approach has resulted in a large Opposition lead and growing expectations that Labour will deliver improvements in core services and an end to industrial action.


But in a number of important areas policy remains under-developed and the trade-offs between different priorities under-explored. On prevention the party has not yet committed to implementing important obesity policies. On capital the party is non-committal on existing and much needed investment programmes. On performance, ambitions to recover A&E and hospital waiting times by embracing the private sector are hard to differentiate from those of the Government and NHS England that are already running.


Our findings show that Labour’s approach to health policy is in more capable hands, but that expectations are high and tough choices are looming. Will money for prevention be ring-fenced away from treatment with such a high waiting list? Will long overdue building programmes and hospital upgrades go ahead? Where will the extra capacity for improving performance come from? How will industrial action be ended without any new money or raiding other health budgets?


How the party answers these questions this week and beyond could well be critical for determining next year’s election outcome.”


Isaac Oliver, Former Business Relations Adviser to the Labour Party and Senior Consultant, WPI Strategy said: “While the public overwhelmingly trusts Labour over the Conservatives to deliver improvements to our healthcare system, the fact that no voter group supports paying more in taxes to boost the NHS, creates a potential challenge for an incoming Labour government. As Wes Streeting has indicated Labour will need to focus on reforming the system. That means, for example, harnessing technology to help bring down waiting lists and relieve some of the pressure on our already overstretched workforce.”