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Public satisfaction with the NHS and social care in 2023

Results of the British Social Attitudes survey

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Top three findings from the BSA survey 2023

Why are the 2023 findings important? 

The BSA survey results enable us to see long-term trends in public satisfaction with the NHS and social care services. In the current social-political-economic context, the 2023 results bring important insight.  

Public satisfaction with the NHS and its services is now in uncharted territory. 

  • The past few years have seen unprecedented drops in overall satisfaction. Since 2020, satisfaction has fallen by 29 percentage points.   

  • For the first time in the survey’s history, less than a quarter of the public say they are satisfied with the NHS overall, and satisfaction with individual NHS services is at record lows. 

The public largely agree on the way forward for the NHS. 

  • Despite the challenges the NHS is currently facing, the public are not looking for changes to the principles of the NHS. They do not want a different model – they want the one they have got to work. They are clear they want to see improvements in waiting times for services, funding and the number of NHS staff. 

  • Despite the current challenging economic climate, nearly half of the public (48%) support the government increasing taxes to spend more on the NHS.   

Public satisfaction with the NHS and social care in 2023

Overall satisfaction with the NHS fell to 24% in 2023

Satisfaction with the NHS has dropped significantly since 2022, by 5 percentage points. Since 2020, satisfaction has seen an unprecedented drop of 29 percentage points. Dissatisfaction with the NHS is also at a record high, with 52% of respondents dissatisfied.   

A line graph showing public satisfaction with the NHS falling from 1983-2023

Satisfaction is low for all NHS and social care services

Satisfaction with all NHS and social care services hit record lows in 2022 and 2023, and dissatisfaction has hit record highs. Satisfaction levels were lowest for social care services, at just 13%. 

Bar graph showing satisfaction with NHS and social care services in 2023

The top reasons for dissatisfaction with the NHS have consistently been waiting times, staff shortages and funding

The three top reasons for dissatisfaction were that there are not enough NHS staff, the government doesn’t spend enough money on the NHS, and it takes too long to get a GP or hospital appointment. These have consistently been the top reasons for dissatisfaction since the question was introduced in 2015. This mirrors what the public think should be priorities for the NHS going forward.

Bar graph showing reasons for dissatisfaction with the NHS overall, 2023

Public support for the principles of the NHS in 2023

The public still agree with the three principles of the NHS

Despite the low level of satisfaction with the NHS, the public still believe in the principles of the NHS. A large majority agree that the NHS should be available to everyone (82%), free of charge (91%), and primarily funded through taxes (82%).

Bar graph showing respondents agreeing with the principles of the NHS in 2023

Public support for the government increasing taxes to pay for the NHS in 2023

Nearly half of the public would support increasing taxes to pay for the NHS

84% of the public agree the NHS has a funding problem, and 48% would support the government choosing to increase taxes to spend more on the NHS. People with the highest income are significantly more likely to say that they would support the government increasing taxes to spend more on the NHS (62% of the highest income quartile agree). 

Bar graph showing support for an increase in taxes to spend on the NHS

Other key findings in 2023

Satisfaction with the NHS overall in 2023

Satisfaction with social care services in 2023

Satisfaction with different NHS services in 2023

Further insights and analysis

There are interesting comparisons between the findings over the past few years and a previous period of low satisfaction.

When satisfaction with the NHS overall fell in the mid-1990s (dropping to 34% in 1997), satisfaction with individual services remained relatively high (for example, more than 70% of respondents were satisfied with GP services during this period). In the latest results, both satisfaction with the NHS overall and satisfaction with individual services are at record lows (satisfaction with GP services is currently at 34%).

Another difference is that in the years leading up to the election in 1997, Conservative supporters were significantly more satisfied with the NHS overall than Labour supporters. As we approach an election in 2024, low levels of satisfaction with the NHS overall are now more consistent across the political divide.

The new government in 1997 initially boosted overall satisfaction levels but satisfaction levels then fell again. It was only when significant investment and reform were put in place in the early 2000s that satisfaction levels rose consistently year on year, reaching a high of 70% in 2010.

What is the BSA?

The British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey is a ‘gold standard’ nationally representative survey that uses a robust methodology to explore public views on a wide range of issues. The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust jointly sponsored the 2023 BSA survey attitudes to health and care questions reported here.

What do the findings from the 2023 British Social Attitudes survey tell us?

Read our blog from The King's Fund Chief Executive, Sarah Woolnough, and the Nuffield Trust's Chief Executive, Thea Stein, exploring what these results mean as we approach a general election.

Read more