Satisfaction with NHS hits new low

BMJ 2018; 360 doi: (Published 28 February 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;360:k943
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. The BMJ

Public satisfaction with the NHS fell by 6 percentage points last year to 57%, the lowest level since 2011, driven largely by concerns over staffing and funding. At the same time, dissatisfaction grew to 29%, up from 22% in 2016.

Satisfaction with GP services also slumped in 2017 to 65%, down from 72% in 2016, show findings from the British Social Attitudes survey.1 This is the lowest rating since the survey began in 1983 and the first time that general practice is not the highest rated service.

On the positive side, people put down their satisfaction with the NHS to the quality of care provided, the fact the NHS was free at the point of use, the attitudes and behaviour of NHS staff, and the range of services and treatments available.

In terms of dissatisfaction they listed staff shortages, long waiting times, lack of funding, and government reforms.

The survey was carried out between July and October 2017 and asked 3004 people about their satisfaction with the service overall and 1002 people about their satisfaction with individual NHS services. It was conducted by the Nuffield Trust and the King’s Fund.

John Appleby, chief economist and director of research at the Nuffield Trust, said the fact that satisfaction with the NHS had dipped below 60% suggested the public were worried about the NHS.

“We know that public dissatisfaction is increasingly driven by concerns over funding and staffing levels and they’re right to be anxious. As the NHS celebrates its 70th year, the government needs to put the service on a sustainable financial footing so it can continue to provide the same high quality, free at the point of use care that it is valued for by the public,” he said.

Ruth Robertson, fellow at the King’s Fund, said: “The drop in public satisfaction with the NHS is significant, especially as it comes amid widespread political concern about the future of the service. Just as striking is that satisfaction with general practice has slumped to its lowest levels since the survey started in 1983. This reflects the huge pressure on general practices, which are struggling to meet growing demand and recruit enough GPs. Given this context, it’s not surprising that public satisfaction has been in steady decline since 2010.

“Most of the respondents or their family members will have visited the GP in the past year, so the GP satisfaction indicator offers us a rich insight into how people have found their hands-on experience with the NHS and how that compares to previous years and decades.”


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