Public satisfaction with the NHS stabilises after record fall

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Public satisfaction with the NHS stabilised last year after a record fall in 2011, according to British Social Attitudes survey data published by The King’s Fund.
Satisfaction with the way the NHS runs now stands at 61 per cent, the third highest level since the British Social Attitudes survey began in 1983. This follows a record fall in satisfaction, from 70 per cent in 2010 to 58 per cent in 2011, when the survey coincided with the first year in a four year NHS spending squeeze and sustained media coverage about the government’s NHS reforms. The 2012 findings suggest that public concern about these issues may have levelled off.
The survey also measured satisfaction with individual services. Satisfaction with A&E services increased by 5 percentage points from 54 to 59 per cent while satisfaction with outpatient services (64 per cent) and inpatient services (52 per cent) showed no real change from 2011.
Satisfaction with GP services (74 per cent) and dentists (56 per cent) are also unchanged. In contrast to the high levels of satisfaction with the NHS, satisfaction with social care services was much lower, at only 30 per cent.
Unlike in most previous years, satisfaction was consistent across the political spectrum, standing at 64 per cent among Conservative and Labour supporters, and 63 per cent among Liberal Democrats. This represents a levelling off of satisfaction among supporters of the governing parties but a 7 percentage point increase in satisfaction among those who identify themselves as Labour supporters.
John Appleby, Chief Economist at The King’s Fund, said: ‘The British Social Attitudes survey has provided an important barometer of how the public views the NHS since 1983. With no real change in satisfaction with the NHS in 2012, this suggests the record fall in 2011 was not a blip and that the ground lost may take some time to recover.’
The survey was undertaken by NatCen Social Research, with the majority of interviews taking place between July and September 2012. The sample size for the health questions was 1,103. Interviews were carried out face-to-face with a random sample of adults. The data is weighted to ensure it is representative of the general population.

Notes to editors

For further information or to arrange an interview with John Appleby, please contact the Fund’s Press and Public Affairs team on 020 7307 2585 (if calling out of hours, please ring 07584 146035).

About the British Social Attitudes survey

The British Social Attitudes survey is owned and directed by NatCen Social Research, and has been conducted every year since 1983 with the exception of 1988 and 1992. This is the second year that The King’s Fund has sponsored the health questions in the survey. As well as the questions on satisfaction with the NHS and individual services, the survey included a number of other health questions - some of these, along with findings from other topics covered in the survey, will be published in the British Social Attitudes 30th Report in September 2013.

The main question asked was ‘All in all, how satisfied or dissatisfied would you say you are with the way in which the National Health Service runs nowadays?’ Satisfaction as reported here aggregates those who answer ‘very’ and ‘quite’ satisfied. It includes those who have had recent contact with the NHS and those who have not. The NHS is one among a number of topics covered by the survey. Although some of the individual questions may change from year to year, the order in which the topics are covered in the survey and the order in which questions on the NHS are asked have not changed in recent years.