More people in Scotland are concerned about health and social justice than in England according to a chapter in the latest British Social Attitudes report from the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).

These are the findings of new analysis, written by Dr Chris Deeming from the department of Social Work & Social Policy at the University of Strathclyde and published by NatCen, Britain’s largest independent social research organisation.

Heath care

Dr Deeming’s analysis draws on data collected as part of the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) 2021 module on health and health care to examine whether people living in England and Scotland express similar or different attitudes to health and health care.

It found that in Scotland, 64% of people think it is unfair that wealthier people can afford better health care, compared with 54% in England.

In Scotland, 60% of people in Scotland say that poverty is a major cause of poor health – compared with 51% in England.

People north of the border are also more confident of getting the treatment they need – but express similar levels of confidence in the NHS overall, with 63% confident of receiving the best treatment available if they became seriously ill – compared with 56% in England.

In England, eight per cent claim they did not get the medical treatment they needed during the past 12 months because they could not pay for it – compared with just 5% in Scotland.

Higher taxes

People in Scotland are also more likely their English counterparts to support higher taxes to improve health services – though many would not allow non-citizens to access the NHS. 55% of people in Scotland say they would be willing to pay higher taxes to improve the level of health care for everyone, compared with 51% in England.

Scotland experienced some of the toughest restrictions, in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic, yet more than one in three people say their confidence in government has increased due to the way the pandemic was handled here.

In contrast, only one in five people living in England say their confidence in government has increased as a result of the Westminster handling of the pandemic.

People in Scotland are also more supportive of public health restrictions in a pandemic, with 66% saying the government should have the right to require people to wear face masks in severe epidemics – compared with 60% in England.

Socially democratic

Dr Deeming, said: “Scotland is somewhat more socially democratic in its attitudes towards health and social justice. The health service in Scotland has always formally been separate from that in England and Wales and its evolution has been somewhat different, not least thanks to a distinctive history and geography.

“Devolution has also given Scotland some ability to depart from the policy direction of UK governments and arguably, it has adopted a more ‘universalist’ approach with access to health and social care services regarded as a social right and available to all, rather than only to those deemed to be in most need.

“Devolution also played a role in shaping how Scotland and England responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with some differences between the measures adopted.

“But while people in Scotland are more concerned about health inequalities and the need for a universal health service, this does not necessarily mean that they have different views on how well the NHS is performing.”

He says that Scotland’s more stringent approach on lockdown measures is also reflected in different public attitudes towards the merits of public health measures rather than relying on individual responsibility when dealing with a pandemic.

The research was funded by the Economic Social and Research Council (ESRC), as part of UK Research & Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19.