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Sharp drop in public satisfaction with the NHS, research shows

Public satisfaction with the NHS has dropped and dissatisfaction has risen.

These are the key findings of the National Centre for Social Research’s British Social Attitudes Survey.

Satisfaction dropped 6 percentage points in a year, taking it to 57% – its lowest level since 2011.

Meanwhile dissatisfaction in the NHS has risen to 29% – the highest in a decade.

The survey also reveals a significant drop in satisfaction with GP services, which slumped 7 percentage points to 65%. This is the lowest since the survey began in 1983 and the first time that general practice is not the highest rated service.

While satisfaction across the board remains significantly higher than dissatisfaction, the Kings Fund and Nuffield Trust – who support the research – say the results reflect the public’s growing anxieties over the funding and staffing of the NHS.

The proportion of people citing concerns over NHS staff shortages and a lack of funding as a reason for their dissatisfaction grew in 2017 compared to previous years.

At the same time the proportion citing money being wasted in the NHS as a reason for dissatisfaction fell.

The four main reasons for satisfaction were: the quality of care, the fact the NHS was free at the point of use, the attitudes and behaviour of NHS staff and the range of services and treatments available.

The four main reasons for dissatisfaction were: staff shortages, long waiting times, lack of funding and government reforms.

Overall satisfaction with the NHS was higher among people aged 65 years or older (63%) than among adults under 65 (55%). Between 2016 and 2017, satisfaction fell among all age groups.

Satisfaction with social care services was 23% in 2017 and dissatisfaction increased by 6 percentage points in 2017 to 41%.

Professor John Appleby, Chief Economist and Director of Research at the Nuffield Trust, said: “Despite mounting pressure on the NHS, satisfaction in the health service has remained high in recent years, with satisfaction staying above 60% for most of this decade.

“In the last year, however, the tide has started to turn. The drop in satisfaction and rise in dissatisfaction this year suggest that the public are worried about the NHS.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, commented: “General practice, in particular, is facing an unprecedented crisis. GPs are carrying out 40m more consultations than a decade ago and are struggling from a combination of rising demand, limited resources and a recruitment crisis. Patients are unfairly bearing the brunt of such significant shortfalls with longer waiting times for appointments.

“The NHS remains under enormous pressure and patients deserve more than sticking-plaster measures for such a vital public service which is why the government needs to take responsibility and fund the NHS adequately.”

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