Hospital Dr News

Public satisfaction with NHS high but waiting times and staff shortages a problem

The British public’s satisfaction with the NHS remained steady in 2016, according to King’s Fund research.

The findings from the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research between July and October 2016, show 63% of people were satisfied with the NHS. Satisfaction remains high by historic standards, but is seven percentage points below its peak of 70% in 2010.

The results show:

  • among the 63% of respondents who said they were satisfied with the NHS in 2016, the most frequently cited reasons were the quality of care (65%), care being free at the point of use (59%), and the range of services available (47%)
  • among the 22% who were dissatisfied with the NHS, the most frequently cited reasons were waiting times (54%), lack of staff (48%), and lack of funding (45%)
  • satisfaction with GP services was 72%, which, as in previous years, is higher than for any other NHS service

There was no statistically significant difference between the levels of satisfaction reported by supporters of the Conservatives (66%), Labour (63%), and Liberal Democrats (68%) in 2016. In the past, satisfaction levels have tended to be higher among supporters of the governing party.

The survey also shows that people continued to be much more satisfied with the NHS than social care. Only 26% of respondents were satisfied with local authority social care services, less than half the level of satisfaction with the least popular NHS service (A&E).

Ruth Robertson, policy fellow at The King’s Fund, said: “The survey findings demonstrate the high value the British public place on the quality of care provided by the NHS and how they cherish the availability of a comprehensive service that is free at the point of use.

“It’s unsurprising that dissatisfaction with the NHS is mostly driven by waiting times, staff shortages, and underfunding, as the NHS is facing severe financial pressures.

“These results also show once again that people are much less satisfied with social care services than with the NHS. This may partly be due to the public having less understanding of what social care services are, but it also reflects the crisis facing social care funding. The clear dissatisfaction with social care services reinforces the importance of the government’s Green Paper later this year as a crucial opportunity to put social care on a sustainable footing.”

Commenting on the report, Dr Mark Porter, BMA council chair, said: “The NHS is one of the best health services in the world, but with the main areas of dissatisfaction around waiting times, staff shortages and lack of funding it is clear that the public know all too well that the health service is under ever greater pressure and is at breaking point.

“It is unsurprising to see that satisfaction with social care has dropped. The current crisis in social care is a direct result of inadequate funding and failures within the social care system hugely affect an already stretched, overworked and underfunded NHS. For doctors to look after patients well, social care needs to be well-funded and adequately staffed.

“The NHS remains under enormous pressure and patients deserve more than sticking-plaster measures for such a vital public service.”

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