Page last updated at 16:34 GMT, Monday, 30 June 2008 17:34 UK

Public tolerant of 'nanny state'

NHS poll result

The public are not opposed to the state interfering in their lives to get them to become healthier, a BBC polls shows.

The government has been accused of acting like a nanny state in the past over some of its public health initiatives.

But the survey of 1,040 people in the UK revealed most wanted ministers to take more responsibility for getting people to make healthier choices.

It comes amid increasing problems with binge drinking and obesity.

Alcohol consumption has been rising steadily for the past 15 years, with figures suggesting a third of men and a fifth of women drink more than the recommended levels each week.

And alcohol-related deaths have more than doubled since 1991 to over 8,700 a year.

Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of adults are obese - up 50% in the last 10 years, while one in six children aged two to 15 are classed as obese - up from one in 10.

The poll, carried out by ICM Research for the BBC, showed that 82% wanted the government to take more responsibility for getting people off illegal drugs.

Meanwhile, 69% were prepared for the government to be more active in reducing drinking rates and encouraging healthy eating.

NHS poll result

Some 67% said more should be done to get people to give up smoking - despite falling rates and the introduction of smoking bans throughout the UK.

And 65% said ministers should do more to get people to lose weight.

But the public were also not tolerant when asked if people should be entitled to free treatment if they continued leading unhealthy lifestyles.

Just 51% said alcoholics should be entitled to free NHS treatment when attending A&E for a drink-related problem, while 64% said smokers should get lung cancer care.

Earlier, the BBC reported other findings of the poll, showing infections were the biggest fear about hospital treatment.


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Nonetheless, eight in 10 said they were proud of the NHS.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the British Medical Association, said it was clear the NHS had a responsibility to help patients whose heath had been damaged by bad lifestyle choices.

However, he added: "People also have a responsibility for their own health.

"There will never be a "pill for every ill" and the health service will only cope if members of the public do their bit in terms of diet, exercise and alcohol."

Professor John Appleby, chief economist at the independent think tank The King's Fund said more funds would inevitably be required to meet growing public expectations of the role of the NHS.

He said: "We could be looking at growth in spending over the next 20 to 30 years taking us up to one pound in five in the entire economy. That would fit with trends in other countries."

NHS graphic
As the NHS turns 60, BBC News is giving it a health check. Watch out for reports, features and analysis on TV, radio and the web.

The BBC poll also found that the most common concern about hospital care was the risk of acquiring an infection, such as MRSA or Clostridium difficile.

Four out of ten people surveyed listed the risk of infection as their biggest fear.

However, 82% of respondants said they were proud of the health service, with half saying it was the envy of the world.

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