Two-thirds of the public favour increased funding to maintain health services, according to an Ipsos MORI poll shared exclusively with HSJ.

More people (79 per cent) also support the NHS being protected from cuts with a ring-fence than for schools (51 per cent), care for the elderly (51 per cent) or the police (39 per cent).

The poll found that just over half of participants say the NHS is what makes them most proud to be British, above the army (47 per cent), royal family (33 per cent) and the BBC (22 per cent).

Out of 19 countries surveyed, Britain was the second most positive about the quality of healthcare, with two-thirds (67 per cent) of British people considering it to be “good”.

However, the survey also revealed increasing concern about the future of the NHS. Only 9 per cent expect quality to improve over coming years, while 43 per cent believe it will get worse, placing Britain among the least optimistic of the surveyed countries.

A lack of resources was viewed as the greatest threat to the future of the service, with 65 per cent in favour of increased funding rather than services being scaled back.

The Ipsos MORI results chime with British Social Attitudes survey data for 2013, published by the King’s Fund today, which found that 60 per cent of people were satisfied with the NHS.

While public satisfaction with the health service remains unchanged on 2012 according to this second set of data, satisfaction with accident and emergency services fell by six per cent to 53 per cent in 2013 – its lowest level since 2008 – following well-publicised breaches in the four-hour A&E waiting time target last year.

John Appleby, chief economist at the King’s Fund, told HSJ that when the public are asked their priorities for extra government spending “health always comes top”.

He said: “It’s almost unwavering from year to year.”