Satisfaction with NHS ‘hits 11-year low’

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Public satisfaction with the NHS has fallen to its lowest level for over a decade, a long-running survey suggests.

The British Social Attitudes poll of nearly 3,000 people found 53% of in England, Scotland and Wales were satisfied with services last year.

That is a three percentage point drop since 2017 and the lowest level since 2007. A peak of 70% was seen in 2010.

Experts said waiting times and a lack of staff were major concerns as ratings for GPs dropped to an all-time low.

The findings of the survey have been released by the Nuffield Trust and King’s Fund think tanks, which helped to provide analysis around the figures.

Ruth Robertson, from the King’s Fund, said the issues identified by the public were “long-standing” problems that the government had not yet managed to deal with.

She pointed out the findings were even more interesting considering the public had been polled in the summer after the 70th anniversary of the creation of the NHS and at a time when the government had announced extra funding for the health service.

“There was no birthday bounce,” she added.

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Of those who were not satisfied last year, 30% said they were actively dissatisfied, with virtually all the rest being neither satisfied or dissatisfied. Less than 1% said they could not answer.

Being free at the point of use, the quality of care and the range of services and treatments available were the main reasons people expressed satisfaction.

Despite the drop in satisfaction, the rating was still well above the all-time low of 34%, which was recorded in 1997. The survey started in 1983.

How individual services compare

The poll also provided breakdowns for individual services.

It showed satisfaction with GPs was at it lowest level ever, at 63%, but that was still higher than dentistry and accident and emergency.

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, of the Royal College of GPs, said GPs always wanted to provide the best care they could, so it was “disappointing” to see the drop.

“We know that general practice is currently facing intense resource and workforce pressures and while GPs are working incredibly hard to combat these, we understand that many patients are still waiting too long to see their doctor – something we find just as frustrating,” she added.

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There were some encouraging signs, however, that when people did get to access hospital care, they were happy – as satisfaction ratings for outpatient services hit their highest levels ever, at 70%.

Meanwhile, satisfaction levels with social care, which is run by councils not the health service, were down, at 26%.

Although researchers said significant numbers – about one in 10 – did not express an opinion, suggesting people did not use these services or did not know what they were.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents health services, said: “These findings show the inevitable consequence of starving the NHS of funding for the best part of a decade.

“We should be under no illusions about the scale of the task we face to restore public confidence in the health service.”

A spokeswoman for England’s Department of Health and Social Care said the recently announced long-term plan coupled with the extra money would “safeguard” the future of the NHS.

Meanwhile, a Welsh government spokesman said other polling there showed satisfaction in Wales was higher- but, he added, there was “always more to be done”.

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