Patient safety

07.03.19

Public satisfaction with NHS hits 11-year low over long waiting times and staff shortages

Public satisfaction with the NHS has fallen to its lowest level in over a decade with frustrations over waiting times driving the dissatisfaction, new research has shown.

The British Social Attitudes poll found that 53% of people were satisfied with the NHS overall, a 3% drop from the previous year and the lowest level since 2007.

The main reasons people gave for being displeased were long waiting times and staff shortages, both over 50%, a lack of funding, and the belief that money is being wasted.

The report comes amid mass staff shortages across the NHS, performances largely failing to meet targets, and reports that the four-hour A&E target could be scrapped – although some would argue that the NHS’s £20bn Long-Term Plan does offer some hope for improvements.

Ruth Robertson, senior fellow at the King's Fund, said she was “surprised” by the results of the survey.

She stated: “We didn't see this 'birthday bounce' that you might have expected in satisfaction.

“In the short term at least, the promise of more money doesn't appear to buy satisfaction.

“The public identified long-standing issues such as staff shortages and waiting times amongst the main reasons for their dissatisfaction and cash alone will not solve these.”

According to the analysis released by think tanks the Nuffield Trust and the King’s Fund, younger people were 10% more dissatisfied with the way the NHS was run than older people.

The research, which looked into the views of almost 3,000 members of the public across the UK between July and October, found that satisfaction levels also differed based on the respondents’ political party, with 51% of Labour supporters satisfied compared to 58% of Conservative supporters.

Satisfaction with both inpatient and outpatient services did increase by 8% and 5% repsectively from the previous year however, and this increased further amongst respondents who had actually used those services recently.

Those who were satisfied said it was because of high quality of care and because the NHS was free at the point of use.

Helen Stokes-Lampard, of the Royal College of GP said it was “disappointing” to see the drop.

She commented: “We know that general practice is currently facing intense resource and workforce pressures and while GPs are working incredibly hard to combat these, we understand that many patients are still waiting too long to see their doctor - something we find just as frustrating.”

Image credit - Dominic Lipinski

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