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Public satisfaction with the NHS and general practice at record lows

Written by: Alex Turnbull | Published: 08 March 2019

 

Public satisfaction with the NHS has fallen to its lowest level since 2007, according to the 2018 British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey.

The survey, found that, following a sharp drop in 2017, public satisfaction with the health service fell by a further 3% in 2018 to 53%, its lowest level in over a decade and 16 percentage points below its historical peak of 70% in 2010.

‘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,’ said Ruth Robertson, Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund. ‘In the short term at least, the promise of more money doesn’t appear to buy satisfaction. The public identified long-standing issues such as staff shortages and waiting times amongst the main reasons for their dissatisfaction and cash alone will not solve these.’

The survey also found that public satisfaction with general practice has declined over the past decade. In 2018, it remained at its lowest level since the survey began in 1983, at 63%, while dissatisfaction with general practice remained at its highest level since the survey began. Almost a quarter (of respondents reported being dissatisfied with their GP service, which is double the level of dissatisfaction in 2009.

The founding principle of the NHS, that it is free at the point of use, remains one of the primary reasons people are satisfied with the NHS (selected by 62% of satisfied respondents). The survey also reported an increase over the past three years in the proportion of people who cited quality of NHS care as a reason for their satisfaction (71%). Concerns over waiting times, NHS staff shortages and inadequate funding remained the top three reasons people gave for being dissatisfied with the NHS in 2018.

‘Satisfaction with general practice – historically the service people were most satisfied with – has been falling for the past decade and is now at its lowest since the BSA survey began over 30 years ago,’ said Professor John Appleby, Director of Research and Chief Economist at The Nuffield Trust. ‘This may reflect continued strain on general practice, with mounting workloads and staff shortages and the evidence shows that people are finding it harder to get appointments than before. 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.’