Public expectations and experience of services

In this section

What matters most to patients?

Patients are putting increasing demands on medical professionals. A survey of medical professionals across Europe showed that in all regions patients are less passive than in the past; they expect:

  • higher standards of care
  • more information about their treatment
  • more involvement in decisions about their care
  • access to the latest treatments (1).

A recent review of the evidence about what matters most to patients by The King’s Fund and King's College London showed that relational aspects of care – eg, dignity, empathy, emotional support – are equally as important as ‘functional’ aspects – eg, access, waiting, food and noise. Yet national patient surveys over the past 10 years show limited improvement on these aspects of care (2).

Patient surveys show the need to improve relational aspects of care


Source: Picker Institute and Care Quality Commission (2010). Survey. National Inpatient Survey 2010

How do patients feel they are treated?

Recent MORI polls show that 65 per cent of the public feel that they are treated with dignity and respect by the NHS. However, only 44 per cent of those who have used social care services say that they were treated with dignity and respect. Only 45 per cent agree that NHS and social care services work well together to give people co-ordinated care (3).

In October 2011, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) reported on standards of dignity and nutrition on wards caring for older people following 100 unannounced inspections of acute hospitals in England.

'Many of the hospitals we visited showed genuine commitment to delivering person-centred care, with registered nurses, doctors, other care professionals and healthcare staff pulling together to treat the people they cared for with compassion and respect… There is, however, a great deal…to give cause for alarm. Around half the hospitals we visited gave our inspection team cause for concern.  Twenty hospitals were not delivering care that met the standards the law says people should expect' (4).

Satisfaction with the NHS

Public satisfaction with the NHS has fallen sharply since 2010 when it reached a record high (5).


Source: NatCen Social Research (2012). Survey. British Social Attitudes Survey, the 29th report

These results are reflected in satisfaction with individual services. Satisfaction with inpatient, outpatient and accident and emergency services all fell in 2011 by between 5 and 7 percentage points. Even satisfaction with GPs, traditionally very high, fell in 2010 and again in 2011 (5).

36 per cent of the population expects health care on the NHS to get worse over the next five years, 35 per cent to stay the same and 27 per cent to get better (5).

Attitudes towards NHS reform

Changes to the health care system

The British Attitudes 2012 survey found that the majority of people (87 per cent) think the health care system in Britain requires 'a few' or 'many changes.'


Source: NatCen Social Research (2012). Survey. British Social Attitudes Survey, the 29th report

Top issues of public concern since 2005-2012

In a poll by Ipsos MORI in 2012, respondents thought the most important issue facing Britain today is the economy. The NHS is no longer thought to be the top issue of public concern.


Source: Ipsos MORI (2012). Report. Britain 2012: who do we think we are?

Next page: Attitudes to NHS and social care funding >


  1. Economist Intelligence Unit (2009). Article. Fixing Healthcare: The Professionals Perspective
  2. King’s College London and The King’s Fund (2011). Research paper. What matters to patients: Developing the evidence base for measuring and improving patient experience
  3. Ipsos MORI (2012). Report. Public Perceptions of the NHS and Social Care: an ongoing tracking study conducted for the Department of Health December 2011 wave
  4. Care Quality Commission (2011). Report. Dignity and Nutrition Inspection Programme: National Overview
  5. NatCen Social Research (2012). Survey. British Social Attitudes Survey, the 29th report