Pandemic shakes public trust in UK healthcare, according to new report



lagging behind other Western health systems on perceived access to high-quality healthcare.


of respondents say they are confident in their ability to make informed healthcare decisions for themselves and their families.


People believe their employer (55%) for health advice ahead of the government (50%)

Public trust in the UK healthcare system has been shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic, with 49% of respondents to a new study saying the pandemic has decreased their confidence that the NHS is well-equipped to handle major health crises.

Published today, the UK data within the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Trust in Health also reveals that 60% say they lack access to high-quality healthcare. The UK is the worst performing Western country surveyed on this measure, outperformed by Canada (56%), Germany (55%), France (51%) and the US (37%).

The report does however indicate that the majority of the UK public trust individual frontline workers to advise them honestly about health issues, with their doctor (75%) and pharmacists (72%) enjoying high levels of trust. Official guidelines from the NHS are trusted by 69% of respondents. In contrast, just over one in three (39%) of those polled trust government leaders to speak honestly about how best to protect public health.

Younger people express particular concern that science is being overly politicised, with over six in 10 Generation Z and Millennials [18-34 year olds in this research] surveyed sharing this fear. Conversely, less than half of those aged 55 and over are concerned that science is being used to support a specific political agenda.

2022 TIH

Overall, the study finds that only 65% of respondents say they are confident in their ability to make informed healthcare decisions for themselves and their families. A deeper dive into that data reveals that within the population, only 62% of those on low incomes feel confident in making personal health decisions, compared to 78% of those on higher incomes.

The responses also outline a clear role for employers to help address the information deficit. More than half of people (55%) consider their employer to be a believable source of health information after seeing it twice or less; they place more trust in their workplace than in national government (50%), traditional media (42%), and their social media feeds (25%).

“Most people trust the individual frontline workers charged with their care implicitly. However, that level of trust does not extend to government leaders, the healthcare system, or the ability to access high-quality care from it.

“It is incumbent on everyone working within the UK health ecosystem – from NHS, to government, to business – to address that disparity,” said Eleanor Read, Managing Director, Health at Edelman UK.

“Trust is a clear determinant of health behaviours and outcomes. We have suspected this for years, but the pandemic has further highlighted its importance. Those with lower levels of trust in the health ecosystem are significantly less likely to be vaccinated (68%) than people with higher trust in it (88%). Similarly, people with lower trust in the health ecosystem are much less likely (22%) to take ownership of their health through routine check-ups than individuals with higher trust (42%).

“The report also indicates the role business can play in empowering people to take ownership of their health and wellbeing. This is both an opportunity – and a responsibility. 67% of employees expect their employer to play a meaningful role in keeping them healthy.

“Those passionate about healthcare delivery in the UK know its long-term sustainability hinges on the transition to a model based on proactive wellness and prevention; driven by individuals, long before they become patients. That future is achievable, but only with concerted, collaborative efforts from policymakers, healthcare workers, and business to build trust.”


Trust in healthcare businesses has swung dramatically during the last two years


A high of 80% following the launch of COVID-19 vaccines, down to 61% last month.



Pharmaceutical companies specifically have enjoyed a 12-point rise in trust


Compared to pre-pandemic and are no longer seen as distrusted in the UK.


For all healthcare companies, there is an expectation that they also address macro determinants of health


To build and maintain trust.




Poverty and income equality (62%), pollution (63%) and climate change more broadly (59%)


are seen as the priorities




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