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Public satisfaction with NHS down to lowest levels since 2007, survey finds

Public satisfaction with NHS down to lowest levels since 2007, survey finds
By Valeria Fiore Reporter
7 March 2019

Patient satisfaction with the NHS has fallen to its lowest levels since 2007, according to a report by think tanks The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust, published today.

The findings are based on the 2018 British Social Attitude Survey (BSA), which show that public satisfaction with the NHS fell to 53% in 2018, the lowest level in over a decade.

The figure also represents a 16 percentage point drop from its ‘historical peak of 70% in 2010’, the think tanks said.

The main reasons given by the more than 2,000 respondents for their dissatisfaction with the NHS were: ‘long waiting times (53%), staff shortages (52%), a lack of funding (49%) and money being wasted (33%)’.

Healthcare leaders and the Labour Party said the results reflects years of austerity and underfunding.

However, some suggested that the recently published long-term plan could help restore public satisfaction with the health service.

Key findings

  • At 63%, satisfaction with general practice services is at the lowest level since the BSA survey began in 1983.
  • The level of unhappiness with general practice has doubled since 2009, with 24% of respondents saying they are dissatisfied with their GP services.
  • Conversely, satisfaction with hospital inpatient services was 63%, the highest level since 1993 and 70% for outpatient services – the highest since 1983.

NHS70 and long-term investment

The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust noted that satisfaction levels fell despite two major events in 2018 – the NHS 70th birthday and the £20.5bn a year by 2023/24 funding settlement announced by Theresa May in June.

The King’s Fund senior fellow Ruth Robertson said: ‘Despite the outpouring of public affection around the NHS’s 70th birthday and the Prime Minister’s “gift” of a funding boost, public satisfaction with how the NHS is run now stands at its lowest level in over a decade.

‘In the short term at least, the promise of more money doesn’t appear to buy satisfaction.’

The Nuffield Trust director of research and chief economist Professor John Appleby said that satisfaction with general practice has been falling for the past decade due to ‘mounting workloads and staff shortages and the evidence shows that people are finding it harder to get appointments than before’.

He said: ‘The NHS long-term plan expects even more of general practice – these problems will need to be addressed quickly if that vision is to be made possible.’

‘Inevitable consequences of starving the NHS of funding’

Commenting on the findings, NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson 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.’

However, he added that ‘there are other grounds for optimism’ such as the new five-year funding settlement and the NHS long-term plan that ‘will go a long way to helping restore public confidence in the NHS’.

BMA chair of Council Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘Patients are being treated in hospitals that have had years of neglect and by a health service that we know is grossly underfunded.

‘We need the Government to urgently address this in the immediate term and to also ensure that beyond the long-term plan headlines there is a clear road map that gives the NHS the staff, resources and services it desperately needs.’

Dr Nagpaul said hospital doctors particularly are under ‘enormous pressure’, as most recently demonstrated by the fact that the four-hour A&E target reached its worst level in 15 years.

NHS Providers director of policy and strategy Miriam Deakin said: ‘Overall satisfaction with the NHS has slipped amid lengthening waiting times and staff shortages.

In fact the public’s concerns reflect those of trusts, and the wider funding, staffing and demand pressures that health and care services face.

‘The implementation of the accompanying NHS long-term plan must support health and care services to address these pressure points, and ensure the additional funding for the NHS is prioritised and invested wisely, if we are to drive up public satisfaction with NHS services overall.’

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