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Public satisfaction with the NHS remains steady

British Social Attitudes survey finds satisfaction remains high by historic standards

Ingrid Torjesen

Thursday, 30 March 2017

The public’s satisfaction with the NHS remained steady in 2016, according to data published today by The King’s Fund.

The findings from the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research between July and October 2016, show that 63% of people were satisfied with the NHS. The change in satisfaction since 2015 (when it was 60%) is not statistically significant. Satisfaction remains high by historic standards, but is seven percentage points below its peak of 70% in 2010.

Since 1983, the National Centre for Social Research’s BSA survey has asked members of the public across England, Scotland, and Wales about their views on, and feelings towards, the NHS and health and care issues generally. The latest survey was carried out between July and October 2016 and asked a nationally representative sample of nearly 3,000 people about their satisfaction with the NHS overall, and of nearly 1,000 people about their satisfaction with individual NHS services.

Among the 63% of respondents who said they were satisfied with the NHS in 2016, the most frequently cited reasons were: the quality of care (65%), care being free at the point of use (59%), and the range of services available (47%).

The most frequently cited reasons for not being satisfied, among the 22% who were dissatisfied with the NHS were: waiting times (54%), lack of staff (48%), and lack of funding (45%).

Satisfaction with GP services was 72%, which, as in previous years, is higher than for any other NHS service. Satisfaction with NHS dentistry services was 61%, up by seven percentage points since 2015 - one of the highest levels of satisfaction with NHS dentistry since the early 1990s

In 2016, there was no statistically significant change in satisfaction with the three hospital-based services covered by the survey compared to 2015; 54% of respondents were satisfied with A&E services, 60% with inpatient services, and 68% with outpatient services.

There was no statistically significant difference between the levels of satisfaction reported by supporters of the Conservatives (66%), Labour (63%), and Liberal Democrats (68%) in 2016. In the past, satisfaction levels have tended to be higher among supporters of the governing party.  

The survey also shows that people continued to be much more satisfied with the NHS than social care. Only 26% of respondents were satisfied with local authority social care services - less than half the level of satisfaction with the least popular NHS service (A&E).

Ruth Robertson, policy fellow at The King’s Fund, said: “It’s unsurprising that dissatisfaction with the NHS is mostly driven by waiting times, staff shortages, and underfunding, as the NHS is facing severe financial pressures.”

She added: “These results also show once again that people are much less satisfied with social care services than with the NHS. This may partly be due to the public having less understanding of what social care services are, but it also reflects the crisis facing social care funding.”

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