Public satisfaction with the NHS

Since 1983, NatCen Social Research’s British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey has asked members of the public about their views on, and feelings towards, the NHS and health and care issues generally. Since 2011, The King's Fund has reported on its findings.

2015 survey

Key findings from the 2015 survey

  • Overall public satisfaction with the NHS fell by 5 percentage points in 2015 to 60 per cent. At the same time, dissatisfaction with the service rose by 8 percentage points to 23 per cent, taking dissatisfaction back to the levels reported between 2011 and 2013.
  • Satisfaction with GP services remained higher than with other NHS services. However, satisfaction of 69 per cent in 2015 was the lowest rate recorded since the survey began in 1983.
  • Satisfaction with NHS dentistry remained flat at 54 per cent.
  • Satisfaction with outpatient services also remained stable at 66 per cent, but was higher than satisfaction with other hospital-based services.
  • Satisfaction with inpatient services was 58 per cent, having remained statistically unchanged for the past three years.
  • Satisfaction with accident and emergency (A&E) services was lower than satisfaction with other hospital-based services at 53 per cent.
  • Satisfaction with social care services provided by local authorities was 26 per cent, 5 percentage points lower than in 2014 and far lower than satisfaction with health care services.
  • Overall satisfaction with the NHS was higher among supporters of the Conservative party (65 per cent) than among Labour supporters (59 per cent). After a jump in satisfaction among Labour supporters in 2014, 2015 saw satisfaction levels in this group return to its 2013 level with an 11 percentage point drop.
  • The three main reasons people gave for being satisfied with the health service were: the quality of care in the NHS, the fact that the NHS is free at the point of use, and the range of services and treatments available. The three main reasons that people gave for being dissatisfied with the health service were: long waiting times, staff shortages and lack of funding.
  • Public satisfaction with the NHS is a multi-faceted measure influenced by respondents’ views on politics, policy and public institutions as well as their experience of the NHS. It is not a straightforward indicator of NHS performance.

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2014 survey

Key findings from the 2014 survey

  • Overall public satisfaction with the NHS increased to 65 per cent in 2014 – the second highest level since the British Social Attitudes survey began in 1983. Dissatisfaction with the service fell to an all-time low of 15 per cent.
  • GP services remain the most popular NHS service in terms of satisfaction, with 71 per cent satisfied in 2014.
  • Dentistry continued to have lower satisfaction ratings than other NHS services: in 2014 just over half of respondents were satisfied with the service.
  • Outpatient services experienced an all-time high in satisfaction levels of 69 per cent in 2014, almost rivalling general practice as the most popular NHS service.
  • Inpatient services showed little change with a satisfaction rating of 59 per cent.
  • For accident and emergency (A&E) services, satisfaction increased from 53 to 58 per cent between 2013 and 2014, after fluctuating in previous years.
  • Social care had far lower satisfaction levels than NHS services – just one-third of respondents reported being satisfied, less than half the level reported for the NHS overall.
  • Satisfaction among respondents with no recent contact with the NHS jumped 11 percentage points between 2013 and 2014, compared to a 4 percentage point increase among those with recent contact.
  • Labour supporters’ levels of satisfaction with the NHS also jumped 11 percentage points, those for Conservative supporters remained roughly the same and Liberal Democrat satisfaction levels increased by 5 percentage points.
  • The increase in satisfaction with the NHS during a year in which the service was under much publicised financial pressure and with notable difficulties with A&E waiting times may in part reflect an actual increase in satisfaction, but also a desire among the public to show support for the health service.

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2013 survey

While satisfaction levels in did not recover to the high of 70 per cent recorded in 2010, they remained high by historical standards. In only two of the previous 30 years had satisfaction levels been greater than those recorded in 2012 and 2013.

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2012 survey

Satisfaction with the way the NHS ran in 2012 stood at 61 per cent, the third highest level since the BSA survey began in 1983. This followed a record fall in satisfaction, from 70 per cent in 2010 to 58 per cent in 2011.

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2011 survey

The results showed that overall satisfaction with the way the NHS across Britain runs fell by 12 percentage points from 70 per cent in 2010 to 58 per cent in 2011.

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