More than four in ten people believe their local hospital will retain or increase the services it provides over the next decade, while very few believe GPs should make decisions about closures, according to a survey.
The results of the survey of 1,876 people by polling form YouGov were shared exclusively with HSJ.
Asked about the future of their local hospital, 29 per cent of respondents said they expected it to provide fewer services in future. However, 28 per cent expected it to provide “all the services that it currently does” and 13 per cent expected it “to provide more services”. The remained said they did not know.
The survey was carried out for the firm Centreground Political Communications.
Londoners appeared the most resigned to accepting fewer services at their local hospital, with nearly half expecting service closures, and less than a third expecting it would retain or gain services.
Nationally, Labour or United Kingdom Independence Party-leaning voters were more likely to expect to see services close. Half of the Conservative-leaning respondents polled expected to see no change, or expansion at their local hospital.
There were also significant differences depending on age. Forty per cent of the over-60s expected to see fewer services at their local hospital, compared to 30 per cent of 18-24 year olds.
Asked to say why they thought services provided in a hospital might be closed or moved to another site, the most commonly chosen – by 38 per cent – was “because hospitals are getting less funding from the government”.
The next most commonly chosen were “because hospitals face ever more demands and need to deliver services more efficiently” – at 34 per cent – and “because it can be better to centralise some complicated services into a smaller number of units” on 25 per cent.
Supporters of different political parties answered this question differently. Forty per cent of Conservative-leaning respondents identified improved services through centralisation as a cause, compared to 19 per cent of those leaving towards Labour.
Asked who should make any decision to close hospital services, the most commonly chosen group was “top surgeons and other senior doctors at the hospital”, at 34 per cent.
This was followed by the Department of Health and hospital chief executives, on 16 and 15 per cent respectively.
Local GPs and MPs came in at eight per cent and one per cent respectively.
Centreground Political Communications chief executive Darren Murphy said: “If the public are going to support vital service changes in how and where treatment is delivered, they have to better understand why change is necessary, how they will benefit and what the motives behind the changes are.”