Satisfaction with the NHS overall

The British Social Attitudes survey asks people how satisfied or dissatisfied they are with the way in which the NHS runs.

Latest public satisfaction survey

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

Trends in satisfaction with the NHS since 1983

Figure 1 shows trends in overall satisfaction with the NHS since 1983. Apart from two of the earliest years (1983 and 1984), satisfaction (ie, those who say they are either quite satisfied or very satisfied with the NHS) fluctuated between 34 per cent and 46 per cent up to 2004. Between 1997 and 1999, satisfaction rose from 34 to 46 per cent then fell back to 38 per cent in 2001 (an indication that the possible ‘honeymoon’ period for the then Labour government had ended). But from then onwards, overall satisfaction with the NHS rose steadily to an all-time high of 70 per cent in 2010 – mainly reflecting rising levels of NHS funding and improvements in the things patients and the public cared about (such as shorter waiting times). This increase in satisfaction was generally mirrored by a decline in dissatisfaction.

However, 2011 saw the largest drop in satisfaction ever recorded by the British Social Attitudes survey, down to 58 per cent. More recent data shows this drop to have been a step change, rather than the start of a continued decline. For the past three years, satisfaction has remained unchanged statistically, sitting at 60 per cent in both 2012 and 2013. While satisfaction levels have not recovered to the high of 70 per cent recorded in 2010, they remain high by historical standards. In only two of the past 30 years (2009 and 2010) have satisfaction levels been greater than those recorded in 2012 and 2013.

Net satisfaction with the NHS overall

The proportion of people who are dissatisfied with the NHS overall is also low by historical standards. When we look at net satisfaction levels – that is, the number of people who are satisfied minus the number who are dissatisfied – the net difference between satisfaction and dissatisfaction in 2013 remains the third highest since 1983 at 38 per cent (Figure 2).

More from the British Social Attitudes survey 2013