British Social Attitudes survey 2012: conclusion

As these new results show, while satisfaction with the NHS overall remains high by historical standards, there has been little improvement since the sharp decline seen in 2011. In effect, there has been little or no recovery from the big fall in satisfaction recorded in 2011.

In the 2011 British Social Attitudes survey report, we suggested that the 12 percentage point drop in satisfaction reflected a combination of response to ministerial rhetoric to justify the government’s reforms of the NHS (poor performance and hence a need for change), concern about the reforms themselves, and reaction to the funding squeeze. These created generalised worries about the NHS and dented public perception that the NHS was being run well. While public concern about the NHS may well have persisted into 2012, there is little to suggest any increase in concern – and hence a deterioration in satisfaction.

This survey, though carried out over a number of months, can only ever be a snapshot of opinion at a given point in time and can be influenced by a number of things that do not relate directly to people’s experience of the NHS. It will be fascinating to see how the next survey, to be conducted over the summer of this year, will reflect the public’s attitudes towards the NHS as it enters its first year of the implementation of the government's reforms of the NHS, its fourth year of near-zero increase in real funding and in the wake of the Francis report on Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.