Public satisfaction with the NHS has sunk to its lowest level since 1997, with just 36% of voters content with the way the health service is run and performing.
More people in England, Scotland and Wales are now dissatisfied (41%) with the NHS than are satisfied for the first time since 2002, according to research from the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen). Discontent then led to Tony Blair’s Labour government raising taxes to improve the service and introducing targets to ensure speedy care.
Satisfaction has dropped 17% since 2020 – the biggest drop since records began in 1983. The collapse has been driven by frustration over long waiting times for all main types of NHS care, the service’s persistent staff shortages and a widespread belief that the government has denied it the funding it needs.Women and babies remain at risk of unsafe NHS care, experts warn
NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey found the lowest levels of satisfaction with GPs (38%), dentists (33%), A&E (39%) and both hospital inpatient (41%) and outpatient (49%) services since it began tracking public attitudes.
The shift has occurred among people of all ages, income groups, sexes and party political affiliations.
The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust think tanks, which published the findings, said they were unprecedented and represented “the most extraordinary set of results we have seen”.
The Covid pandemic and the ensuing disruption to NHS services have deepened the fall in satisfaction but unhappiness – especially with access to GP appointments and routine surgery – was evident well before then. The NHS has seen a decade-long funding squeeze and a failure to address the chronic lack of staff, the think tanks added.