Satisfaction with the NHS falls to lowest-ever level, as just over a quarter of Brits are happy with the health service

29 March 2023, 07:12 | Updated: 29 March 2023, 07:23

Satisfaction in the NHS has fallen to its lowest ever levels
Satisfaction in the NHS has fallen to its lowest ever levels. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

The proportion of British people who are satisfied with the state of the NHS has never been lower, a wide-ranging survey has found.

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Just 29% of people are satisfied with the condition of the health service, according to the 2022 British Social Attitudes Survey.

That is the lowest level since the survey began in 1983, and a steep drop since 2010, when 70% said they were happy with the NHS.

Dissatisfaction with the health service has doubled to 51% - also the highest-ever rate - up from 25% in 2020.

But the public remain proud of the NHS in principle, despite dissatisfaction with how it works in practice, according to the poll of 3,362 people from England, Wales and Scotland, analysed by the Nuffield Trust and The King's Fund think tank.

Public satisfaction with the NHS has dropped to its lowest ever level, according to a major new survey.
Public satisfaction with the NHS has dropped to its lowest ever level, according to a major new survey. Picture: Alamy

The NHS has struggled with long waiting times for major operations and procedures as well as urgent care for years, stretching back before the pandemic.

The service has recently been hit by strikes among nurses and ambulance workers over pay and conditions, whose dispute has now been resolved. But junior doctors are now striking after their demands for a 35% pay rise were not met.

Jessica Morris, report author and fellow at the Nuffield Trust, said: "The fact we have now recorded the lowest level of satisfaction with the NHS in the 40-year history of this gold standard survey is a warning siren.

"The Prime Minister has made recovering the NHS one of his central promises going into the next general election, but these results show what an enormous task this will be.

"It is clear that the level of unhappiness amongst the British public over the way the NHS is running is going to take many years to recover."

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The top reasons for dissatisfaction were about funding, staffing and access to care - some 69% said it takes too long to get a GP or hospital appointment, 55% said that there are not enough NHS staff and 50% said the government does not spend enough money on the NHS, according to the survey, which was conducted by the National Centre for Social Research in September and October 2022.

The results of the social care polling have already been released but also paint a worrying picture, with only 14% satisfied and 57% dissatisfied with how the social care service is run.

Meanwhile, a smaller survey of 1,187 people found that satisfaction with different NHS services is at record lows.

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Dissatisfaction with A&E services rose to 40% - the highest ever level since the question was first asked in 1989. Meanwhile, some 42% said they were dissatisfied with NHS dentistry.

And just over a third (35%) said they were satisfied with GP services, the lowest level recorded.

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Dan Wellings, report author and senior fellow at The King's Fund, added: "Even with satisfaction dropping to its lowest ever level, support for the founding principles of the NHS remains strong.

"The public do not want a different model of healthcare, they just want the current model to work."

He added: "Satisfaction ebbs and flows, but the the belief in the institution is absolutely rock solid.

"It's still the thing that makes us proudest to be British but these results are very clear - it's not working for large numbers of people right now.

"I think behind the numbers, there are people who are really struggling to get care and support and access for themselves or their family members."

He said the results should ring "loud, continuous alarm bells in the corridors of power", adding: "This is as bad as I've ever seen in an NHS survey."

Satisfaction in the NHS has fallen to the lowest-ever level
Satisfaction in the NHS has fallen to the lowest-ever level. Picture: Alamy

Commenting, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: "These sad but significant findings show the public's frustration with the status quo around health and social care and should serve as a red flag to the Government."

An NHS spokesperson said: "While this survey reflects the public's perceptions of the significant pressure on our services, it is clear the overwhelming majority still very firmly value the fundamental principles of the NHS - which is welcome as we head towards the NHS's 75th birthday.

"Importantly, even with more people accessing our services than ever before, it also shows strong satisfaction with the range of services and the quality of care patients receive, which is a testament to our hardworking, dedicated staff working across all corners of the NHS."