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80% 'would pay more to save NHS'

Almost 80% of people would be willing to pay more every month to ensure the survival of the NHS, according to a newspaper poll.

The Sunday Mirror said 79% of voters would be happy to pay an extra £5 in National Insurance contributions to ensure the health service is kept in public ownership.

The poll found that fears over privatisation of the NHS and doctors and nurses being overworked were prominent.

Some 82% said health workers deserve more support from the Government, while 63% felt the NHS had deteriorated over the past 10 years, but did not blame staff.

Three quarters were concerned that the quality of their care was a postcode lottery, but a similar number still felt the NHS provided the best treatment, with 62% believing Britain has the best health service in Europe.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham told the newspaper: "The 21st century is asking some difficult questions of our 20th century service and it is struggling to answer them...

"Under David Cameron, NHS privatisation is proceeding at pace and scale too. When did the British public give their consent?

"The Prime Minister needs to be reminded he has never been given permission to put the NHS up for sale in this way."

But Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt responded by saying there are almost 13,000 more doctors and nurses than 2010, with 850,000 more operations every year.

Citing a recent evaluation by the Commonwealth Fund that found the NHS has become the top-ranked health care system in 11 of the richest countries in the world over the last four years, he said: "This Government has protected the health budget and is increasing it by £12.7 billion over this Parliament...

"Where poor care does exist we're confronting it like never before. The NHS is our most treasured institution. I am determined it stays that way for future generations."

A spokesman for the Patients Association told the Sunday Mirror: "This poll reflects what patients regularly tell us - that they want to see investment in the NHS, not a sell-off to the private sector."

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