Public satisfaction with the NHS slumps to new record low

Public satisfaction with the NHS has fallen to the lowest level ever recorded, according to analysis of the latest British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey published recently by The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust.

For the first time in the 41-year history of the survey, less than a quarter of people are satisfied with the way the NHS is running. Satisfaction had previously peaked in 2010, when 70% of people reported being satisfied with the health service.

Overall public satisfaction with how the NHS runs now stands at 24% – a fall of 5% from the previous year. Since 2020, satisfaction has fallen by 29% points. Dissatisfaction is also at an all-time high, with more than half (52%) of respondents saying they were dissatisfied with the NHS.

The survey published by The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) in September and October 2023, is seen as a gold-standard measure of public attitudes in Britain.

Nearly three quarters (71%) of respondents who were dissatisfied with the NHS pointed to long waiting times for GP and hospital appointments as one of their top reasons for dissatisfaction, followed by staffing shortages (54%), and a view that the government does not spend enough on the health service (47%).

Since the 2015 survey, a large majority of respondents have consistently expressed the view that the NHS has a major or severe funding problem, with 84% of respondents to the 2023 survey now sharing this view.

In a new question introduced for the 2023 survey, nearly half (48%) of the public would support the government increasing taxes and spending more on the NHS. Those on the highest household incomes were more likely to choose this option.

Despite record low levels of satisfaction with the NHS, public support for the founding principles of the NHS, which marked its 75th anniversary in 2023, is as strong as ever. The overwhelming majority of respondents expressed high levels of support for the principles when asked if they should still apply in 2023: that it is free of charge when you need it (91%), primarily funded through taxation (82%) and available to everyone (82%).

Dan Wellings, Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund said: “These results are depressing but sadly not surprising. The NHS has seen no respite from the issues that have led to an unprecedented downward spiral in public satisfaction in recent years.

“With the health service increasingly unable to meet the expectations and needs of those who rely on it, public satisfaction with the NHS is now in uncharted territory. The size of the challenge to recover it is growing more difficult with each passing year. Ahead of the upcoming general election, political leaders should take note of just how far satisfaction with this celebrated public institution has fallen.”


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