Satisfaction with the NHS reaches record low

The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust today released their analysis of the latest British Social Attitudes survey (BSA), which shows public satisfaction with the NHS has dropped to its lowest level ever.

It’s the first time in the survey’s 41 years that fewer than a quarter of people are satisfied with the way the NHS runs. Public satisfaction with how the NHS runs now stands at 24% – a five point fall on the previous year and a 29 point fall since 2020.

Dissatisfaction is also at an all-time high, with more than half (52%) of respondents saying they were dissatisfied with the NHS.

The top reason cited by respondents was long waiting times for doctor and hospital appointments (71%), followed by staffing shortages (54%), and the opinion that the government doesn’t spend enough on health care (47%).

Since 2015, respondents have consistently agreed that the NHS has a major or severe funding problem. And a new question introduced for the 2023 survey found almost half (48%) would support tax increases to fund higher levels of NHS spending.

The survey 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.

However, public support for the founding principles of the NHS, remains high with 91% agreeing it should remain free at the point of use and 82% supporting a tax-funded health system available to all.

Dan Wellings, senior fellow at The King’s Fund said the results were unsurprising.

‘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,’ he added.

Commenting on the findings, director of policy at the Independent Healthcare Providers Network David Furness said: ‘Today’s figures, which show the lowest levels of public satisfaction with the NHS on record, are not easy reading and are testament to the enormous challenges currently facing the health service.

‘For decades now, the independent sector has worked with the NHS to deliver high quality, universal care which is free at the point of use for patients. This commitment to supporting the NHS is stronger than ever, and independent providers are ready and willing to play are part in delivering what really matters to the public – tackling the NHS backlogs and providing high quality and accessible patient care.’