Dissatisfaction with NHS ‘at record high’


More than half (52%) of people who participated in a major survey of the GB public were dissatisfied with the NHS, as staff shortages, strikes, and record waiting lists take their toll.

The results from the annual British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey came from 3,000 people interviewed across England, Scotland, and Wales and showed that less than a quarter (24%) were satisfied with the health service, a 29% drop in three years.

The poll by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), published by the Nuffield Trust and King’s Fund, comes at a critical time for the government with an election looming in the next few months. The last time that NHS satisfaction hit record lows was just before and after the New Labour government swept to power in 1997.

The NHS report has emerged just a couple of days after NatCen delivered the results of its poll on social care, which showed a satisfaction rate of only 13%.

“It is perhaps unsurprising that public satisfaction continued to fall in a year of strikes, scandals, and sustained long waits for care, [but] both the scale of the fall and what sits behind it are alarming,” write Thea Stein and Sarah Woolnough, respective chief executives of the Nuffield Trust and King’s Fund, in a commentary on the report.

The top reasons for dissatisfaction were long waiting times (71%), understaffing (54%), and a lack of funding (47%).

All told, 48% of respondents supported increased tax and spending to support the NHS, rising to 62% of those in the highest monthly income quartile, with 42% wanting to keep these at the same level. A minority of 6% said they felt tax and spending should go down.

The results suggest that, while much of the UK population feels let down by the current state of the NHS, they still broadly support it on principle.

“As we approach a general election, the results of the British Social Attitudes survey could not be clearer,” write Stein and Woolnough. “The public do not want a change in the model of healthcare; they want the existing model to work better for them, their families, and their loved ones.”

According to Rory Deighton, director of the acute network at the NHS Confederation, the findings make for hard reading, but should come as no surprise and “should not take away from all the incredibly hard work of NHS staff caring for patients in the face of a pandemic, industrial action, staffing shortages, and a flat revenue settlement in the Spring Budget.”

The Confederation has called on the next government to put in place a 12-month stabilisation plan, boost capital funding to repair dilapidated buildings and invest in new equipment, and commit to fully funding the NHS workforce plan.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) general secretary Prof Pat Cullen said that “any party wanting to be in Downing Street in a year must demonstrate clear intent” to support the NHS, adding: “Voters must now make NHS and care services the central issue of the general election.

27 March, 2024