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‘Warning siren’: Public satisfaction with NHS hits record low

‘Warning siren’: Public satisfaction with NHS hits record low

Public satisfaction with the NHS has slumped to a record low, according to the results of an annual survey which reveal ‘sustained and worsening’ concerns about every part of the health service.

The British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey also found a ‘sharp increase’ in the level of dissatisfaction with social care services.

Results of the survey, which is the 40th of its kind and was conducted by the Nuffield Trust and the King’s Fund in September and October 2022, have been published today.

Overall satisfaction with the NHS has fallen to 29%, a drop of seven percentage points from the previous year and the lowest level since the survey began in 1983, the findings showed.

More than half (51%) of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the NHS and a fall in satisfaction levels was seen across all ages, income groups, sexes and supporters of different political parties.

Among the main reasons people gave were staff shortages (55%) and a view that the government does not spend enough money on the NHS (50%). Some 83% of respondents believed the NHS had a major or severe funding problem.

Of those who were satisfied with the NHS, the top reason was care being free at the point of use (74%), followed by the quality of care (55%) and the range of services and treatments available (49%).

Upon being asked what the most important priorities for the NHS should be, increasing the number of staff came in top at 51%.

All services hit record levels of low public satisfaction, and just 14% of respondents said they were satisfied with social care, with only 2% indicating they were very satisfied.

In total, 57% of people said they were dissatisfied with social care services, up from 50% in 2021.

The top reason given was that people said they didn’t get all the care they need (64%), followed by inadequate pay, working conditions and training for social care workers (57%).

Jessica Morris, report author and fellow at the Nuffield Trust, which jointly sponsored the survey with the King’s Fund, described it as a ‘warning siren’ about the worsening situation for the NHS.

‘Behind the political upheaval and turmoil playing out at the time of this survey, the British public was sending a message about the worsening situation for the NHS,’ she said.

‘The fact we have now recorded the lowest level of satisfaction with the NHS in the 40-year history of this gold standard survey is a warning siren.’

Meanwhile, co-author and senior fellow at the King’s Fund Dan Wellings added the findings should be a ‘wake-up call’ to those in power.

‘The public can see for themselves the results of more than a decade of underfunding and a lack of workforce planning,’ said Mr Wellings, who added that people were ‘struggling to get the care they need’.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, added: ‘The fact that public satisfaction with the NHS is at its lowest in 40 years should not be seen as a judgement of the efforts of frontline staff to recover services in the wake of the pandemic but rather, a sign that the NHS is not being given what it needs to fully deliver for its local communities.

‘Health leaders will take heart in the acknowledgment that the NHS has its hands tied. Staff shortages and a view that the government does not spend enough money on the NHS are two key reasons behind the dissatisfaction, and echo what leaders have been saying for years.’

Mr Taylor said the survey should give further impetus to the government to fast-track a fully funded workforce plan and provide funding increases towards both pay rises and estate improvements, with action on social care ‘more urgent than ever’.

The survey was carried out between 7 September and 30 October 2022 and asked a nationally representative sample across England, Scotland and Wales of 3,362 people about their satisfaction with the NHS and social care services, and 1,187 people about their satisfaction with specific NHS services, as well as their views on NHS funding.

The Department of Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.

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