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Less than a quarter of people are satisfied with the NHS, survey finds

Less than a quarter of people are satisfied with the way the NHS is running according to the latest British Social Attitudes survey (BSA). This is the lowest level ever recorded in the 41-year history of the survey.

Less than a quarter of people are satisfied with the way the NHS is running according to the latest British Social Attitudes survey (BSA). This is the lowest level ever recorded in the 41-year history of the survey.

The annual survey published by the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) in September and October 2023 and is seen as a gold-standard measure of public attitudes in Britain.

Overall public satisfaction with how the NHS runs now stands at 24% – a fall of 5 percentage points from the previous year. Since 2020, satisfaction has fallen by 29 percentage points. Dissatisfaction is also at an all-time high, with more than half (52%) of respondents saying they were dissatisfied with the NHS.

Nearly three quarters (71%) of respondents who were dissatisfied with the NHS pointed to long waiting times for GP and hospital appointments as one of their top reasons for dissatisfaction, followed by staffing shortages (54%), and a view that the government does not spend enough on the health service (47%).

Dan Wellings, Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund said: “These results are depressing but sadly not surprising. The NHS has seen no respite from the issues that have led to an unprecedented downward spiral in public satisfaction in recent years. With the health service increasingly unable to meet the expectations and needs of those who rely on it, public satisfaction with the NHS is now in uncharted territory. The size of the challenge to recover it is growing more difficult with each passing year. Ahead of the upcoming general election, political leaders should take note of just how far satisfaction with this celebrated public institution has fallen.

“The public are clear that they want shorter waits for care, better staffing levels and more funding. Despite the challenging economic circumstances, our analysis suggests that one in two people may be prepared to pay more for the NHS through taxation, especially those with the deepest pockets.”

Survey finds public would pay more tax to spend more on NHS

Since the 2015 survey, a large majority of respondents have consistently expressed the view that the NHS has a major or severe funding problem, with 84% of respondents to the 2023 survey now sharing this view.

In a new question introduced for the 2023 survey, nearly half (48%) of the public would support the government increasing taxes and spending more on the NHS. Those on the highest household incomes were more likely to choose this option.

Of those who were satisfied with the NHS, the top reason was because NHS care is free at the point of use (66%), followed by the NHS has a good range of services and treatments available (53%) and the quality of NHS care (52%).

The analysis also shows that public satisfaction with GP services – historically the service with the highest levels of public satisfaction – now stands at 34%, the lowest level recorded since the survey began. Since 2019, satisfaction with GP services has fallen by 34 percentage points. Satisfaction with NHS dentistry has now fallen to a record low of 24%. Public satisfaction with inpatient services is at a historically low level (35%) as is satisfaction with outpatient services (44%). 31% said they were satisfied with A&E services, up 1 percentage point on the previous year.

Jessica Morris, Fellow at The Nuffield Trust added: “The next government will inherit an NHS with a record low level of satisfaction with the way in which it’s running. It is worrying how consistent this is across different NHS services, with inpatient, outpatient, dentistry and GP services reporting record low levels of satisfaction. As we approach a general election, political parties should be frank and realistic about the challenges ahead of them if they are to turn this situation around.

“Despite such low levels of satisfaction, the public continue to back the principles underpinning the NHS. The public has not fallen out of love with the idea of a publicly funded, free at the point of use NHS, but they are losing confidence that it will support them and their loved ones in the best possible way when they need it.”

Findings should not take away from hard work of staff

The NHS Confederation said that the results of the survey should not not take away from all the incredibly hard work of NHS staff caring for patients in the face of a pandemic, industrial action, staffing shortages and a flat revenue settlement in the Spring Budget.

Rory Deighton, director of the acute network, added: “The fact that a large majority of respondents feel the NHS has a major or severe funding problem shows that the public recognises the challenges that the NHS faces. Despite satisfaction with the NHS dropping to a new low the British public still ultimately believe in what the NHS does and what it stands for, with nearly half of people surveyed saying they support the government increasing taxes and spending more on the NHS. This should be food for thought to politicians ahead of an election.

“We are also hopeful that the recent drop in people on waiting lists could lead to public satisfaction increasing, but our members are under no illusions that the road to recovering services will be a long and hard one in the present climate. In order to meet the challenges the NHS needs the right support and resources from government. That is why we are calling on the next government to put in place a 12 -month stabilisation plan, boost capital funding to repair dilapidated buildings and invest in new equipment, and to commit to delivering and fully funding the workforce plan while drawing up an equivalent one for social care.”

The survey asked a nationally representative sample of 3,374 people (across England, Scotland and Wales) about their satisfaction with the National Health Service (NHS) and adult social care services overall, and 1,206 people about their satisfaction with specific NHS services, as well as their views on NHS priorities, principles and funding.

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