King's Fund to the rescue of Social Attitudes Survey
The King’s Fund has stepped in to help preserve a time series of public attitudes to health and the NHS which had been threatened by the Department of Health pulling the plug.
The British Social Attitudes Survey has been asking questions about health for nearly 30 years, but DH decided not to continue funding in 2011. NatCen (the National Centre for Social Research), who carry out the survey, says it was “clearly disappointed” by the decision, and delighted that the King’s Fund has decided to fund questions about the NHS this year – though this would still mean some valuable questions will not be included.
Economies are being made everywhere, but DH needs to be careful not to give the impression that it is cutting in order to conceal any decline in public approval for the NHS as its reforms bite. Last week the UK Statistics Authority intervened in an effort to save the questions on alcohol and tobacco (among others) in the British Lifestyle Survey, after the NHS Information Centre said it was withdrawing support.
There has also been a comical row over whether Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, was suppressing an Ipsos MORI poll that tracks public satisfaction with the NHS. He told the Health Select Committee that as his predecessors hadn’t published it the results for 2008 or 2009, he wouldn’t be publishing the 2010 report either, but then discovered it had been in the public domain since last December, when an MP asked for it. So it is now readily accessible, along with the two earlier years, here.
NatCen said it recognised that DH had some difficult decisions to make about funding for social research, but, “as the leading provider of social research in the UK, we’re concerned that individual departmental decisions protect the evidence base as far as possible”.
It called for a co-ordinated response across departments. A blog post by NatCen’s Chief Executive, Penny Young, makes the same point.