The public remain firmly committed to a free at the point of delivery NHS, but could potentially back charging patients in certain circumstances, according to a survey for the King’s Fund.

These circumstances include treatments which are not seen as clinically necessary, such as cosmetic surgery and elective caesarean sections.

The findings come in a new report published today by the King’s Fund and Ipsos MORI.

It follows recent research from the King’s Fund which showed that health and social care could devour half of all government spending by 2063 - based on current trends.

The report comes as NHS England chair Malcolm Grant raises the prospect of the government needing to consider greater use of charging in an interview with the Financial Times.

Researchers asked the public to share their opinions on how to pay for both acute and primary NHS care in the future.

Those surveyed robustly backed the principle that health care access should continue to be based on need rather than ability to pay and rejected means testing.

They also said that the quality of clinical care should not be compromised to reduce costs.

Those polled were hesitant to consider substantial changes to the current funding model, despite the scale of the NHS’s funding challenges.

The survey showed that people would want charges introduced for some treatments and services and would like to engage in an NHS funding debate. They want more information about how the NHS is financed.

They also want the current system to be shown to be working as efficiently as possible before they would contemplate funding changes.

Those surveyed said the government should prioritise tax avoidance over asking people to pay more towards care costs.