No change in public satisfaction with the NHS but satisfaction with A&E has dropped, according to latest British Social Attitudes survey data

Public satisfaction with the way the National Health Service runs remained unchanged from last year at 60 per cent, according to British Social Attitudes survey data for 2013. Published by The King’s Fund a year before the 2015 general election, the data confirms that public satisfaction with the NHS has stabilised after a record fall in 2011 from its all-time high of 70 per cent in 2010. 

While public satisfaction with most services also remain high, satisfaction with accident and emergency (A&E) services dropped by six percentage points from 59 per cent (2012) to 53 per cent (2013), its lowest level since 2008. This is the lowest satisfaction rate of any NHS service in 2013. This fall follows the well-publicised breaches in the four-hour A&E waiting time target last year. In contrast, satisfaction with hospital outpatient services climbed to a record high of 67 per cent, while satisfaction with inpatient services jumped six percentage points to 58 per cent. 

The survey, conducted by NatCen Social Research, also showed that public satisfaction in GP services was unchanged at 74 per cent, while satisfaction with dentists remained steady at 57 per cent. In contrast to the high levels of satisfaction with the NHS, satisfaction with social care remains low. Just 29 cent of respondents were very or quite satisfied with social care with an equal proportion being dissatisfied.

With exactly a year to go until polling day, the data shows satisfaction levels beginning to diverge along party lines. Between 2012 and 2013, satisfaction increased slightly amongst Conservative supporters (by three percentage points to 66 per cent), remained the same among Liberal Democrats at 63 per cent, and dropped slightly among supporters of the Labour party (reducing by four percentage points to 59 per cent).

John Appleby, Chief Economist at The King’s Fund, said: ‘Since 1983 the British Social Attitudes survey has provided an important barometer of how the public views the NHS. Public satisfaction in the NHS remains high, although satisfaction with A&E has dropped. This may be due to concerns about waiting times in 2013.’

To mark a year until the next general election today, The King’s Fund is launching a new section on its website, which will analyse and provide commentary on the health and social care debate leading up to polling day on 7 May 2015.

Notes to editors: 

For further information or to arrange an interview with John Appleby, please contact the Fund’s Press and Public Affairs team on 020 7307 2603 (if calling out of hours, please ring 07584 146035) or email on mediaoffice@kingsfund.org.uk.

The survey was undertaken by NatCen Social Research, with the interviews taking place between July and September 2013. The sample size for the health questions was 1,063. Interviews were carried out face-to-face with a random sample of adults. The data is weighted to ensure it is representative of the general population.

About the British Social Attitudes survey

The British Social Attitudes survey is owned and directed by NatCen Social Research, and has been conducted every year since 1983 with the exception of 1988 and 1992. This is the third year that The King’s Fund has sponsored health questions in the survey. As well as the questions on satisfaction with the NHS and individual services, the survey included a number of other health questions – some of these, along with findings from other topics covered in the survey, will be published in the British Social Attitudes 31st Report in June 2014.

The main question asked was ‘All in all, how satisfied or dissatisfied would you say you are with the way in which the National Health Service runs nowadays?’ Satisfaction as reported here aggregates those who answer ‘very’ and ‘quite’ satisfied. It includes those who have had recent contact with the NHS and those who have not. The NHS is one among a number of topics covered by the survey. Although some of the individual questions may change from year to year, the order in which the topics are covered in the survey and the order in which questions on the NHS are asked have not changed in recent years.

The King’s Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and health care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible care is available to all.