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NHS public satisfaction falls to lowest level in 11 years

Satisfaction with GP services drops to 63%

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 07 March 2019

Public satisfaction with the NHS has fallen to an 11-year low with GP services being rated as satisfactory by 63% of people, according to the latest British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey* published today.

The survey carried out for think tanks The King’s Fund and The Nuffield Trust between July and October 2018 asked a sample of 2,926 people about their satisfaction with the NHS overall, and 973 people about their satisfaction with individual NHS and social care services.


Results of the survey, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), showed an increasingly disillusioned general public.

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 more than a decade and 16 percentage points below its historical peak of 70% in 2010.

The continued fall in satisfaction happened despite the government’s announcement last June – just before the interviews for the survey were undertaken – of a £20bn long-term funding boost for the health service. 

In 2018, satisfaction with NHS general practice services was 63% - down by 2% on the previous year – and although the change was not statistically significant, satisfaction remains at its lowest level since the survey began in 1983.

Looking over the longer-term, satisfaction with GP services has decreased since 2009, when it was 80%.

Dissatisfaction with general practice in 2018 remained at its highest level since the survey began. Almost a quarter (24%) of respondents reported being dissatisfied with their GP service – double the level of dissatisfaction reported in 2009.

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.

Ruth Robertson, senior fellow at The King’s Fund 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.”

Professor John Appleby, director of research and chief economist at The Nuffield Trust, said: ‘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.

“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 British Medical Association (BMA) said falling rates of patient satisfaction with the NHS were a sign of a health system under unprecedented pressure.

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

“GPs, hospital doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are working harder than ever before to treat the ever-rising number of patients, but they are fighting a tide of poor staffing, lack of space and a lack of investment. Given this backdrop, the levels of satisfaction could have been lower, and I believe it’s almost certainly the dedication of staff in the NHS that prevents this.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “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.”


*Public satisfaction with the NHS and social care in 2018: Results from the British Social Attitudes survey. The King’s Fund & Nuffield Trust. March, 2019.

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