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NHS unites us in being ‘proud to be British’, but millions face having to go private, fighting for treatment, or being dismissed by doctors

  • Nationwide discussion groups and large-scale survey on people’s everyday experiences of health and social care reveal new insight into changes needed 
  • Landmark analysis shows NHS makes most people in England, Scotland and Wales feel ‘proud to be British’ 
  • One in five adults forced to go private because they can’t get NHS treatment 
  • A quarter say waiting times are having a serious impact on their mental health
  • Millions fighting to get treatment, others feel dismissed, some groups face discrimination

New analysis today reveals the NHS unites us in being ‘proud to be British’ – a sentiment shared by over three quarters (77%) of Brits, including the vast majority of Scots and Welsh people. 

Engage Britain held 101 discussion groups across the country to explore Brits’ day to day experiences of the NHS and social care. The issues people spoke about informed a survey of 4,000 adults which revealed many of these problems are happening far more widely. The results show very large support for staff, but also serious concerns from millions about their care.

The Engage Britain and Yonder poll showed one in five (21%) saying they’d been forced to go private because they couldn’t get the NHS treatment they needed. And with waiting times rocketing, one in four (25%) say the wait for treatment for themselves or a loved one has had a serious impact on their mental health. 

Other experiences people face with the NHS and social care right across Britain include: 

  • 28% say they’ve had to fight to get the treatment they need for themselves or a loved one
  • Over a quarter feel they’ve been dismissed or not taken seriously, rising to 45% of women aged between 18-34
  • 22% of people from ethnic minorities say they or a loved one has experienced racism when seeking treatment
  • One in six people say problems getting care caused their elderly loved ones more stress towards the end of their lives 

But the vast majority of people also feel NHS workers are facing an uphill battle. A huge 85% of people think staff are overstretched but doing as much as they can with their resources.

The discussion groups and analysis from Engage Britain are part of a ground-breaking national drive to give people a say on what matters most to the country. The aim is to find answers to Britain’s biggest problems by grounding them in people’s everyday lives.

Following the discussion groups on the NHS and social care, Engage Britain will hold a citizen’s assembly to discuss people’s day to day experiences and start to work out realistic plans for change.

Case study

Ever since Allie, 33 from Sheffield, was diagnosed with endometriosis she’s battled for her condition to be taken seriously by doctors, while also struggling with the long waits to get the treatment she needs:

“I just don’t think doctors understand the impact having endometriosis has on every aspect of your life. From being able to perform day to day tasks, being able to work and managing the side effects of medications. 

When I was told I needed surgery I had to wait four months for a face-to-face appointment. On the day, I was told it would be six to nine months before I got the surgery. I was in huge pain and that thought was horrendous. He suggested instead I could go on medication to put me into a chemically induced menopause. I said I didn’t know much about it and it sounded quite scary. I asked for more information and support and got sent away with a leaflet.

I felt so lost. The lack of support, the waiting times, having to fight to get support were all making me feel anxious and depressed. There were times when I could barely get out of bed.”


Despite the polling showing millions having been let down while seeking treatment, love for the NHS endures – with 38% saying although they’ve had bad experiences they’d never want to lose it.

Engage Britain Director, Julian McCrae, said: “The NHS unites so many of us with a feeling of pride. But the fact is millions are also being let down every day by our health and care services. 

“People right across the country told us they’re feeling ignored or dismissed or are turning to private treatment because they have little other choice. And overworked staff are being pushed to breaking point.

“It’s vital that future changes, including those in the NHS Reform Bill, address the daily challenges that so many in Britain are facing. Only answers rooted in real experiences can deliver health and care that works for us all.”

For more information on what matters to people in Britain about health and social care go to

Notes to editors

Case studies available on request. 

View and download survey infographic here.

Media contact: Freya Barnes, Head of Media 

0203 953 6329 / 

About Engage Britain 

Engage Britain is fully independent charity, giving people a say on what matters most to Britain. We’re finding answers to the country’s biggest problems by grounding them in people’s everyday lives. We’re bringing together people with different views, ideas and experiences across Britain and helping them not just to debate but create the plans for change they want to see. Then we’re working with them to make those changes happen. We’re pulling people and those in power closer. And proving the public’s practical, realistic solutions can help make the country work for us all. Be part of Britain’s big decisions at