ComRes have a poll in the Independent/Sunday Mirror tonight. The finding that has got the most attention is a question asking who people think would do “a better job at managing the NHS this winter”. 31% of people picked Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, 43% of people picked Theresa May and the Conservatives.

This is a very unusual result. The NHS is, essentially, Labour’s issue of last resort. Whatever happens, however bad things look, the public will almost always say they trust Labour more on the NHS. Over on Ipsos MORI’s website they have data on the question going back to 1978… and you have to go back to 1978 to find the Tories ahead. If you go back to the time of the Brown government when the Conservatives were on a high there were a couple of polls from other companies when the Tories scraped a lead on the NHS, but it is extremely rare. A twelve point Tory lead on the NHS would be unheard of.

The reason for this strange result is probably the wording. YouGov ask “best party on issues” regularly, and still consistently find Labour ahead. Just this month they found 28% trusted Labour most on the NHS compared to 20% for the Tories. The difference with the ComRes question is that they did not ask just which party people trusted on the NHS, the choice was between “Theresa May & the Conservatives” or “Jeremy Corbyn & Labour” to manage the NHS. The introduction of the two leaders into the question probably explains why May & the Conservatives were ahead.

While this probably explains the difference, it should be scant comfort for Labour. If the mention of Jeremy Corbyn in a question is enough to make respondents doubt whether they’d trust Labour with the NHS – normally a banker for them – then imagine what he would do to people pondering whether they would trust Labour on the economy, security or whatever.

The other questions on the NHS were far more typical. While 71% agreed that the NHS provides a high standard of care, by 47% to 36% people did think the Red Cross were right to say the NHS was in crisis. That May/Conservative lead on the NHS should not be taken as an endorsement of their management either: only 12% of people agreed that Jeremy Hunt was doing well as Health secretary and 56% of people agreed with a statement that NHS care is worse than ten years ago.

Another question asked about high pay and is more encouraging for Jeremy Corbyn. A YouGov poll in the week asked about a pretty tough policy on high pay (a maximum earnings limit of £1m a year) and got a negative response: only 31% thought it a good idea, 44% a bad idea. ComRes asked about a much subtler policy (giving tax benefits or government contracts to companies with a maximum ratio of 20 to 1 between top and average salaries) and this got a much better reception, 57% thought they should, 30% thought the government should not interfere.

Opinium also have a new poll out tonight for the Observer – details here. They have topline voting intention figures of CON 38%(nc), LAB 30%(-1), LDEM 7%(+1), UKIP 14%(+1). The eight point lead is lower than most other polls show, but this seems to be a consistent pattern from Opinium – presumably for methodological reasons – rather than a drop since their previous poll.


301 Responses to “Labour are probably still ahead of the Tories on the NHS. Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand…”

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  1. I had just heard the NHS – Corbyn v May poll data on BBC news and was about to write a comment when I saw AW’s report. Even with his explanation I do not understand the data. Can we have any reliance on polls at all or are the UK population incapable of thinking for themselves and only rely on what they read in the Mail et al.

  2. I’d personally say it was a very oddly worded and conceived question – ask a funny question and get a funny answer. Less to do with the presence of Corbyn in the question and more to do with the strange idea of asking about who’d be better at dealing with THIS winter’s crisis (rather than a generic crisis), when only one party CAN do anything about it.

  3. Good evening all from baby sitting duties here in a cold damp Stevenage.

    “The finding that has got the most attention is a question asking who people think would do “a better job at managing the NHS this winter”. 31% of people picked Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, 43% of people picked Theresa May and the Conservatives”
    ______

    Maybe there were a lot of Welsh people polled in the poll because Wales under Labour is the worse performing NHS region in the UK.

    Another reason the Tories might be ahead of Labour regarding the NHS is their proposals to have GP surgeries opened 7 days a week and to take pressure off A&E. I think the public would back this proposal…

    GP’s will say there is not enough funding…fine in that case open surgeries on 4 week days and on a Saturday. This would surely improve productivity in the workforce across the UK by cutting down on the amount of hours/days workers have to take off during the week to go and see their GP because of no GP services on weekends.

    Back to the poll…I still think Labour edge it over the Tories on the NHS but such is the political climate towards ol Corbyn I think by just mentioning his name in any poll gets a lot of hackles going up…unfairly!!

  4. I keep seeing this sort of bewildered response from Corbynites. It can’t be right, they say. Either the polls are wrong or the people are stupid.

    How is this so impossible to grasp? The voters can’t stand Corbyn. The reasons, frankly, don’t matter. The only thing that does is that Labour has no future with Corbyn as a leader.

  5. Regarding the polling around high pay. Surely if it’s a private company they can pay their top people whatever they want and if company performance is poor then let the shareholders be judge and jury..not politicians..

    Polling would probably show the public are more outraged by the pay packets of top civil servants compared to NHS nurses and the fact that primary and secondary school heads can earn more than the PM.

  6. @ Alan Christie 10.40

    Unless you are saying GPS are under worked and can easily fit into a 7 day week then this plan is nonsense and another reason why May is not fit to run the NHS. On the basis that most GPS are already overworked and a third either plan to retire or leave the NHS in the next 5 years then you can totally discount this idea. Even your 4 day week idea does not really work. Yes it allows workers to see GP at a more convenient time but even those of us who are retired can’t get a midweek appointment for days or even weeks. What are we to do – go to A&E of course. A much better plan would be to open medical centres for minor injuries – we have them in Newcastle. But of course this requires more money, an anathema to the Tories.

  7. @Peter Bell
    “…but even those of us who are retired can’t get a midweek appointment for days or even weeks”

    It’s usually days round here, but why would it need to be quicker unless it was an emergency, in which case the GP wouldn’t be the most appropriate place to go anyway?

    I do agree about walk-in centres though. We have a few in my area, and they seem to be a good idea especially for working people.

    What we found when one was opened in my area a few years ago though was that, contrary to expectations, there was little or no relief on either the local A&E or GPs. In other words, demand is virtually limitless.

    The more facilities that open, the more demand goes up. You can see why. I go to the doctor as little as possible, but if there was a walk-in centre next door to me I’d probably go there for minor stuff that normally gets treated at home such as cut fingers or minor colds. Perhaps there should be more education about how to treat such things at home?
    ————————————
    @various
    On the pay cap issue I’ve pointed out before that many high earners are not actually employees but have their own companies. If you tried to extend this cap to such companies would it be fair for instance to someone who ran a small business of his own which he had built up from scratch? In the modern world, quite a lot of people have very profitable companies doing business on the internet for instance.

    I do agree with the general principle that CEOs, footballers, TV personalities etc are paid too much compared to ordinary folks, but the policy needs to be thought through in detail.

  8. PETER BELL

    Dentists, GP’s, Job centers…all don’t reflect that we are increasingly living in a 24/7 society. I’ve no doubt many GP’s are under pressure as it is but surely on the GP’s days off he/she can put in a qualified nurse or something so the public can have access to medical treatment/advise 7 days a week.

    The choice is a simple one regarding our health service..Cut out the amount of managers with little or no medical experience and direct the saved funding towards GP services.

  9. the problem with the NHS is twofold:

    One, there are simply not enough GPs:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/11271216/UK-has-fewer-doctors-than-almost-every-EU-country.html

    And the second problem is that we still carry on with hospitals doing the job of multiple health institutions, in a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
    Hospitals should be devoted to carrying out major operations and caring for patients with serious or emergency illnesses. GP surgeries are for individual consultations – nothing else.

    What is required, alongside hospitals and GP surgeries is a third institutional tier of clinics or infirmaries where minor or non-urgent cases can be seen to and dealt with and tests or scans carried out, and perhaps also where patients can stay for short periods only, for observation.

    I believe there have been suggestions to introduce such clinics, but these seem to have been shot down in flames.

  10. @ALLAN CHRISTIE

    “The choice is a simple one regarding our health service..Cut out the amount of managers with little or no medical experience and direct the saved funding towards GP services.”

    Utter rubbish. Cutting management means that management has to be done by clinicians who do not want to manage!! Any organisation needs managers, and the NHS is a huge organisation and needs a lot of managers. Simple as that.
    What we need most of all is more doctors, and then also a restructuring of NHS establishments so as to treat people more efficiently according to need.

  11. Tancred
    Walk-in centres staffed by GPs, nurses and others already exist. They don’t have beds.

    Cottage hospitals used to carry out many of the functions you suggest, but many have closed because the government of the day deemed that it was more efficient to concentrate skills in bigger hospitals.

  12. Another issue is that GP pay structure incentivises them to do more and more, with various financial sweeteners if they perform certain tasks which may not always be appropriate. This can lead to unnecessary tests for hypochondriacs just to make them feel better and blocking resources which should go to individuals who with more urgent needs.

    I also believe that GPs should be salaried and employed by the NHS instead of being given the freedom to run personal businesses with taxpayer subsidy. Anyone who refuses should be made to pay back their training costs.

  13. @PETE B

    “Tancred
    Walk-in centres staffed by GPs, nurses and others already exist. They don’t have beds.
    Cottage hospitals used to carry out many of the functions you suggest, but many have closed because the government of the day deemed that it was more efficient to concentrate skills in bigger hospitals.”

    I am aware of walk-in centres, but my argument is to make them more like the old cottage hospitals. The move towards huge hospitals does not enable an appropriate focus to be devoted to certain types of patient. One size fits all does not work in my view.
    Some hospitals have become so huge that you need a map and considerable walking time to get from one department to another, which is absurd.

  14. Tancred
    “I also believe that GPs should be salaried and employed by the NHS ”

    This is one option. The other is to completely privatise the NHS. The current hybrid system where GPs, Pharmacists, Dentists, Opticians are mostly private whereas hospitals and bureaucracy are mostly nationalised, seems to be immune to reorganisation. It’s been done many times with no real effect. I worked in the NHS for about 7 years, and it was reorganised 4 times during that time.

  15. @Tancred
    “The move towards huge hospitals does not enable an appropriate focus to be devoted to certain types of patient. One size fits all does not work in my view.
    Some hospitals have become so huge that you need a map and considerable walking time to get from one department to another, which is absurd.”

    I agree with all of this. There is a counter-argument which says that small relatively isolated hospitals find it more difficult to keep up to date with latest practice (though this might not be so important now we have the internet). It’s also obviously more expensive to maintain extra premises.

  16. AW,

    Indeed the 8 point lead is a (marginal) increase on the last Opinium poll.

  17. @PETE B

    “This is one option. The other is to completely privatise the NHS”

    Yes, but to do so would be controversial and not favoured by the majority of people. Opinion polls have consistently shown strong majorities in favour of keeping the NHS public. I strongly agree, because as soon as you introduce a profit motive, this leads to cuts in some areas and a greater focus on areas of higher profitability.

  18. @ ALLAN CHRISTIE
    “Maybe there were a lot of Welsh people polled in the poll because Wales under Labour is the worse performing NHS region in the UK.”

    Wales has to deal with a whole host of problems relating to long term health problems – deprivation and an elderly retired clientele in the west. Please don’t simplify our problems.

  19. @PETE B

    “There is a counter-argument which says that small relatively isolated hospitals find it more difficult to keep up to date with latest practice (though this might not be so important now we have the internet). It’s also obviously more expensive to maintain extra premises.”

    Undoubtedly, there would be higher property and maintenance costs, but there would be gains in more focused healthcare for patients and also more local treatment, without having to travel long distances.

  20. Tancred
    It’s nice to agree for once. G’night.

  21. @ALLAN CHRISTIE

    “I’ve no doubt many GP’s are under pressure as it is but surely on the GP’s days off he/she can put in a qualified nurse or something so the public can have access to medical treatment/advise 7 days a week.”

    The job of nurses is to care for ill people, not to play at being an ‘assistant doctor’. Nursing should go back to basics instead of being turned into a profession in order to make up for the lack of doctors.
    Becoming a doctor is extremely difficult in the UK; the closed circle of the profession was originally meant to enforce high academic standards but has now become a mechanism to protect the scarcity and therefore earning power of clinicians. Medical training needs to change and doors opened up to people seeking career change even without having the necessary A levels currently needed for entry to a medical degree course. People with humanities backgrounds should be welcomed and given appropriate foundation training.

  22. @ ALLAN CHRISTIE

    “Regarding the polling around high pay. Surely if it’s a private company they can pay their top people whatever they want and if company performance is poor then let the shareholders be judge and jury..not politicians..

    Polling would probably show the public are more outraged by the pay packets of top civil servants compared to NHS nurses and the fact that primary and secondary school heads can earn more than the PM.”

    I rarely bother with negative responses (universally ignored, and generaly rightly so), but what planet are you on?

  23. Tancred
    “The job of nurses is to care for ill people, not to play at being an ‘assistant doctor’.”

    That might have been true once, but there are now ‘nurse practitioners’ who are able to prescribe at least for certain conditions. Whether this is right or wrong is beside the point. It is a fact. And now it really is Goodnight from me.

  24. @Joe might have a point.
    I’d assume the addition of Corbyn&May _would_ change the result based on their relative, very different, personal ratings…but yeah, Joes’ point does undermine this finding for me.

    Pay ratio thing looks like it’s not a complete faceplant for Lab though, maybe they can keep pushing a more fine tuned version than whatever the ‘announcement’ even was. (this isn’t the site to discuss the wisdom of actually trying to implement such an idea).

    IIRC it flew much better in Scotland even in its’ basic form.

  25. Opinium poll – leader ratings

    Given the SNP’s regularly polling around 50%, it’s not surprising that Sturgeon has a high positive net rating here (+18%).

    She is also viewed positively in Wales (+8%) and NI (+9%).

    In England, however, her rating is minus 18%.

    Anderson (Lab Shadow SoS for Scotland & NI) commented about “anti-Scottish” feeling in England.

    He said: “One of my biggest frustrations is over the last few years how very much inward the people of England have turned against the Scots in particular. It saddens me. We are better off together.”

    Referring to the Brexit vote and the Scottish Government’s drive for Britain to stay in the single market, Mr Anderson said: “Let’s face it, people will spin this as saying: ‘It’s the Scottish tail wagging the English dog again.’ People are saying we should have been out of Europe on June 24 and we are not even going to start talking now until March 31. They have pushed it back just because of them… It’s very divisive.”

    He added: “The referendum in 2014 highlighted the differences and then you had the 2015 election and Nicola coming through and a lot of people in England saying they’re telling us what to do. It just fills me with despair

    http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15023469.Corbyn_needs_to_try_harder_in_Scotland__says_Anderson__as_he_decries_anti_Scottish_feeling_in_England/?ref=mr&lp=10

  26. It’s always interesting to look at the responses from outwith England to questions which are only concerned with English issues like the performance of NHS England.

    Are respondents simply giving views on these issues because of their underlying political beliefs, or what they see on TV or in the Press?

    Even when asked a specific question about their own experience, the responses of the wee Scots sample are widely at variance with professionally conducted surveys which aren’t placed in a political context.

    For example, 36% of the Scots respondents agreed that “I or my family have struggled to get a GP appointment in the past 12 month”.

    Yet those numbers are wildly out of kilter with the Health and Care Experience Survey 2015/16 – Accessing GP Services.
    http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/05/9045/5

    Either ComRes have polled an aberrant group of individuals, or the “struggle” was to get an appointment with the doctor of their choice at the exact time they wanted it, or they are fabricating their response.

    Yes. All 4 NHS systems in the UK are under pressure. but this kind of polling may exaggerate the problems.

    Fortunately, neither May nor Corbyn have any say (except through macro-economic issues) about the direction of NHS services anywhere else than England.

    We need EPEI – English Polling for English Issues!

  27. @ ” Jeremy Corbyn on the other hand…….”

    Indeed-indeed-I wonder if the interesting straws in the wind at the end of this article signal a change of heart ?

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/15/tristram-hunt-better-future-in-museum-jeremy-corbyn-labour

  28. The reaction from EU next week will be fascinating-and the renting of garments in UK will no doubt be mighty.

    http://www.itv.com/news/2017-01-15/why-theresa-may-will-say-we-are-leaving-the-single-market-and-customs-union/

    Hope we get a well designed polling question on it.

  29. OLD NAT
    “Either ComRes have polled an aberrant group of individuals, or the “struggle” was to get an appointment with the doctor of their choice at the exact time they wanted it”

    Very likely – a phone in programme on the Beeb yesterday had a number of complainants that the availability of a home-call doctor 24/7 was not for a doctor or their doctor at their practice – and so would not e.g. have their medical records.

  30. Watch Pound Sterling drop on Tuesday, if Theresa May does announce that she intends to pursue a quick exit from EU single market/customs union.

    It seems to me that Theresa May now agrees with Liam Fox that the only Brexit option that is credible is total independence for the UK. If this is the case, i can see many Tory MP’s and Lords being very unhappy. They might well think about blocking Article 50 and stopping Government Proceeding on a basis that they cannot accept.

    It is possible that an early general election is now much more likely, as Theresa May attempts to gain a big majority to obtain the Brexit she believes the electorate supports. The trouble with this is that the electorate might not agree with this version of Brexit and not give a Tory Government a majority to take Brexit forward.

  31. I am not a Corbyn supporter but feel that the that the wording and introducing managing the NHS crisis in to the question affects the responses.

    A simplistic division has existed for most for the last 40 years or so that the Conservatives are better at managing the Economy while Labour care more. (Black Wednesday changed this for a few years on the Economy part of course).

    There will be respondents who trust Labour more than the Tories on the NHS but believe the Tories would manage anything, and therefore, the NHS better – crisis or not. It would not be my view but there is a credibility in it and certainly when funds are flowing readily inefficiencies can be hidden for longer in any organisation. There is (disputed) evidence that the extra return for the significant increases in spending under Labour was less than could have be expected for example.

    It may well be that JC is a drag on Labours NHS lead and as a non-supporter I think he probably is but this poll imo does not demonstrate this due to the wording and the question asked.

  32. I love this shake up in Politics.

    JC has just called for the abolition of the House of Lords by 2020 and its replacement by an elected second chamber in some form.

    Any body who will bring an end to that national disgrace deserves support.

  33. S Thomas – he called for a consensus to be reached by 2020 on the format for an elected second chamber – presumably for the GE.

  34. @JimJam
    “There is (disputed) evidence that the extra return for the significant increases in spending under Labour was less than could have be expected for example.”
    Not much. NCpolitics recently released a hart which showed that the % of people satisfied with the NHS doubled during the Blair/Brown era and the % dissatisfied halved. As of the chart, satis/dissatis was holding steady up to 2014 – I doubt it is now.
    The Commonwealth Fund (NY think tank growing out of legacy of a Rockefeller investor) put the NHS most performant of developed world healthcare systems in 2014 by a considerable margin (Switzerland 2nd) whilst being the second least expensive (behind NZ)
    http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/fund-reports/2014/jun/mirror-mirror

  35. Interesting story in the Sunday Times:-

    Two accidents-same person-one in Durham; one in Pau ( France)

    Durham :–3.5 hrs in A&E including XRay. Strapped up & sent home

    Pau:-GP-half an hour for painkillers &, splint .
    Hospital half an hour for XRay.( with result & diagnosis).

    Financial Cost to patient:-

    Durham-absolutely nothing.

    Pau-GP £21 + £66 for drugs & splint.
    Hospital £65 for X Ray.
    45 days wait for refund forms to be processed & 74% refund .
    Net Cost £ 40

    In Socialist France no street protests about a “Privatised” Health Service.-just quicker treatment.

  36. Jeremy Corbyn on Andrew Marr just now. Seems to be for a rather soft Brexit.

    It occurs that inevitably part of discontent with Corbyn must follow the leave/remain split amongst party supporters. This will dog any leader at this point in time who stakes out a position. Taking this superimposed on party partisanship, one might expect him to have the active support of a constituency of only about 20% of voters. Again the analogy with the US where more people were against Trump or clinton than supported them.

    The coverage earlier in the week suggested Corbyn was pro immigration, which does seem to correlate with soft Brexit. Right now his position is to prevent undercutting wages of the native workforce by immigrants. So rather than halting immigration, he seems to be aiming at resolving the reasons people might be upset by immigration.

    So if May is positioning for hard Brexit, it seems labour is positioning for soft Brexit.

    There would seem to be a developing position attacking a high top wage culture. Corbyn also seems to be opposing the Tories solution to the brexit knot, of cutting corporate taxes.

    Maybe we are seeing an end to the fence sitting on Brexit.

    Watching him, I think Corbyn will be removed from the leadership only with his fingernails still left rammed into his desk as they drag him out. This is his opportunity and he will not give it up. It may be the two recent labour resignations were in recognition of this.

    Allan Christie,
    “I’ve no doubt many GP’s are under pressure as it is but surely on the GP’s days off he/she can put in a qualified nurse or something”

    Down our way finding a qualified nurse willing to be employed is as difficult as finding a GP willing to be hired.

  37. @ Colin

    Might i suggest that in France they have fewer patients and more healthcare professionals. So you get quicker treatment and it is nothing to do with how funding is organised.

    The NHS just tries to do too much, without ever having luxury of resources, where they can stand back to take a look at efficiency of what they are doing. Because they are run off their feet, i don’t think they get the time to really look at best practice as much as they should. If they had the time and resources, they might actually be able to think about how they are organised. If frontline are constantly battling an almost impossible workload, it is left to bureaucrats to try to fix problems and they may not be best placed.

  38. Interesting poll in the Independent 57% in favour of wage cap: looking for source now

  39. Here’s my take on the ‘Corbyn name conundrum’ , for what it’s worth.

    Most voters have already made up their mind about Mr Corbyn.
    Most voters perceive him as a ‘far left’ 70’s style Socialist.
    Most voters will perceive him supporting immigration and unlimited Benefits.

    Nothing he says from now on will change these perceptions.

  40. Seems it was comres 2038 responses between 11 and 13 Janua

  41. Should have read AW in more detail: don’t I feel a fool only got as far as the NHS

  42. “Any body who will bring an end to that national disgrace deserves support.”

    Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP has @sthomas’ support.

  43. @oldnat

    I read that the shadow Secretary State of Scotland referred to Scottish people as “you up there” last week.

  44. Good morning all from a rain soaked Stevenage.

    JONESINBANGOR
    @ ALLAN CHRISTIE
    “Maybe there were a lot of Welsh people polled in the poll because Wales under Labour is the worse performing NHS region in the UK.”
    …………….
    “Wales has to deal with a whole host of problems relating to long term health problems – deprivation and an elderly retired clientele in the west. Please don’t simplify our problems”
    __________________

    Scotland has the same sort of long term health problems as Wales and particularly in the West yet it doesn’t stop the Scottish bit of the Labour party bashing the SNP over it…some consistency please.

  45. Maybe don’t argue over which bits of the NHS are doing what, attributable to which parties, at all….

  46. It’s all becoming clear where we are headed. TM hints at hard brexit, the chancellor hints strongly that the UK may become a tax haven and TM likes holidaying in Switzerland.

    Expect more cuckoo clocks.

  47. S THOMAS
    I love this shake up in Politics.
    JC has just called for the abolition of the House of Lords by 2020 and its replacement by an elected second chamber in some form.
    Any body who will bring an end to that national disgrace deserves support
    ___________

    It gets my vote.. anything that removes the unelected decrepit dinosaurs who are being payed to sit around all day farting and wheezing and interfering with government legislation has to be good for democracy.

    However do we really need another elected second chamber? Or why don’t they turn the Lords into a devolved English parliament and stop the Scots from voting on English only matters…I mean an MP from Glasgow voting on scrapping hospital parking fees in England has to be seen as a provocation. ;-)

  48. Guymonde,

    I am aware of satisfaction being higher in the Labour years, the dispute is about whether outcomes should have improved even more for the amount of extra money spent.

    In any event it was a secondary point from me, the choice of question and wording in the poll was the purpose of my post.

  49. R HUCKLE

    My view is:-
    :That the NHS needs more money-and that it always will.That the funding model here is facilitating the unneccessary component of demand & that we should move to a Continental style hybrid of State Funding & Customer ( patient) contribution.

    But we never will do this because the NHS Funding model has become a religion.

    My prediction is that the NHS will be just like all those Nationalised Industries of my youth- Run as much for the benefit of its workforce as for its customers , and subject to arbitrary State funding settlements dependent on UK’s Economic Cycle, rather than its strategic needs.

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