Satisfaction with NHS services – results 1

The British Social Attitudes survey also asked about satisfaction with individual NHS services. Satisfaction with individual NHS services also fell - for GPs, by 4 percentage points, for inpatient services by 5 points, for outpatient services by 6 points, and for accident and emergency services by 7 points (see Figure 4). Satisfaction with dental services, on the other hand, rose by 5 percentage points.

Latest public satisfaction survey

View the most recent results: British Social Attitudes survey 2015.

Figure 3

Figure 3: Satisfaction* with GP and NHS dentistry services: 1983-2011**

Trends for satisfaction with GP and NHS dentistry services

The graph above shows trends for satisfaction with GP and NHS dentistry services. Satisfaction with general practitioner services has traditionally been high – around 70 per cent to just over 80 per cent. From a low in 2001 of 71 per cent, satisfaction rose to 80 per cent in 2009. However, it fell in 2010 by 3 percentage points, and the latest results show a further fall of 4 percentage points (to 73 per cent).

By contrast, and apart from one year (2000), satisfaction with dentistry had been in long-term decline until 2009, when satisfaction increased from 42 per cent (in 2008) to 48 per cent. There was a further increase in 2010 and the latest results for 2011 show that this continued, with satisfaction reaching 56 per cent.

Why has satisfaction with NHS dentistry risen?

Bucking the general trend, satisfaction with dentistry rose in 2011 for the third successive year – up five points to 56 per cent. And dissatisfaction has now dropped from 37 per cent in 2006 to 21 per cent in 2011. What might explain this?

One answer is a turnaround in a particular problem with dentistry, namely, access to a dentist who carries out NHS work. As the 2009 Steele review of dentistry noted, 'By the mid-1990s access to an NHS dentist was entering the public consciousness as a political issue' (Steele 2009).

Despite various attempts to address this problem – including some increased funding, targets set for PCTs to improve access, a growth in the number of dentists carrying out NHS work and a new contract introduced in 2006, problems persisted (particularly in some areas of the country). As the Steele review further noted about the new 2006 contract, 'Some dentists were uncomfortable and insecure about the new arrangements and chose to convert to private care. While the lost capacity was fairly small (about 4 per cent of provision) it exacerbated the access problems that had been growing since the early 1990s.' Indeed, in the year after the new contract, access, as measured by NHS courses of treatment, fell.

As improvements in satisfaction with dentistry started in 2009 – too early for the recommendations of the Steele review to have been implemented – one presumption is that satisfaction lagged behind the implementation of other changes preceding the review – including increases in funding for dentistry and specific efforts to improve access, as noted above.

See Figure 4 for a graph of trends in satisfaction with inpatients, outpatients and accident and emergency services: 1983–2011

Public satisfaction with the NHS and its services - other sections