Public satisfaction with NHS remains steady despite winter pressures

Public satisfaction with the NHS remained steady during 2016, as 63% of people said they were satisfied with the NHS, a survey published by the King’s Fund has revealed.

In the ‘Public satisfaction with the NHS in 2016’ survey, it was also found that of these people, 65% cited the quality of care as the reason for their satisfaction, whilst 59% said it was because the NHS is free at the point of care.

Of those who were dissatisfied with the NHS, waiting times were the biggest reason at 54%, with lack of staff and lack of funding standing at 48% and 45% respectively.

The results of the survey shows satisfaction rates have levelled off somewhat since last year, when a separate survey called the British Social Attitudes survey found the biggest rise in dissatisfaction with the NHS since 1983.

There was also no change from 2015 found in satisfaction levels with the three hospital-based services covered by the survey in 2015, as 54% of respondents said they were satisfied with A&E services, whilst 60% were content with inpatient services and two-thirds (68%) said they were happy with outpatient services.

However, elsewhere in the survey, concerns were raised about public health services. Only 26% of respondents reported that they were satisfied with council-run social care services.

Ruth Robertson, policy fellow at The King’s Fund, said that the survey findings demonstrated the high value the British public place on the quality of care provided by the NHS and how much 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,” she explained.

“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,” Robertson added. “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.”

British medical Association (BMA) council chair Dr Mark Porter also highlighted that the survey was evidence that the public still held the NHS in high regard.

“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,” he added.

“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. The government should bring spending on health in line with other leading European economies and produce a long-term strategy that addresses the fundamental workload and funding challenges that are overwhelming our health service.”

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