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Rise in public dissatisfaction with NHS, King's Fund survey reveals

Published 09/02/2016

In 2015 overall NHS satisfaction fell to 60%, down from 65% in 2014
In 2015 overall NHS satisfaction fell to 60%, down from 65% in 2014

Public dissatisfaction with the NHS is rising, according to new data.

In 2015, overall NHS satisfaction fell to 60%, down from 65% in 2014, the British Social Attitudes survey found.

At the same time, dissatisfaction with the NHS rose by 8% to 23%, the largest single-year increase since 1986.

Dissatisfaction is now back at the same levels as reported between 2011 and 2013, the survey, published by the King's Fund health charity think-tank, found.

The decade of NHS funding growth during the 2000s was accompanied by increasing levels of public satisfaction, it said.

This reached a peak in 2010 at 70% and, although satisfaction in 2015 is still high by historic standards, it is now 9% lower than in 2010.

The survey was carried out between July and October 2015 among more than 2,000 members of the public.

More than 1,000 people were also asked about their satisfaction with individual NHS services.

The survey, conducted by NatCen Social Research, found that 69% of people were satisfied with GP services.

Although general practice is still the NHS service people are most satisfied with, this represents a 10% drop since 2009 and is the lowest rating for GPs since the survey began in 1983.

Of those who were satisfied with the NHS, the main drivers were good quality of care, the fact the NHS is free at the point of use and the range of services and treatments available.

The main reasons for dissatisfaction were waiting times for GP and hospital appointments, not enough staff and under-funding.

Satisfaction levels among Conservative supporters was 65% while 59% of Labour supporters were satisfied.

The survey also found that satisfaction with social care services is much lower than satisfaction with health services, falling by 5% to 26% in 2015.

Campaigners have warned that cuts to social services mean people are struggling in the community.

The cuts are also having a huge impact on the NHS, with "bed blocking" patients stuck in NHS beds estimated to cost the health service £900m a year.

John Appleby, chief economist at the King's Fund, said: " The British Social Attitudes Survey has traditionally been seen as a barometer of how well the NHS is performing.

"The latest survey underlines the high value the British public places on the quality of care the NHS provides and its availability free at the point of use. It is no surprise to find that dissatisfaction is driven by waiting times for appointments and perceptions of underfunding and staff shortages.

"However, it is also apparent that people's perceptions are influenced by their views about a range of factors including politics, policy and public institutions, as well as by their own experience of the NHS."

A Government spokesman said: "There is pressure on the NHS as our population ages, and that's why the Government is investing record amounts to transform care.

"This survey shows that satisfaction with services fell by nearly twice as much in Scotland as in England, and that public satisfaction in England is six points higher than in Wales."

Dr Maureen Baker, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: "It is testament to the hard work and dedication of GPs and their teams across the country that at a time of such intense resource and workforce pressures, patient satisfaction with our service is the highest in the NHS.

"The demands on general practice are currently enormous, and with our ageing population and increase in patients living with multiple, long term conditions, this is only set to grow."

Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander said: "This is the clearest sign yet that the public has lost trust in David Cameron's handling of the NHS.

"The fact that one quarter of the public are now dissatisfied with the NHS shows just how far it has declined on this Government's watch. Hospitals are in financial crisis, there are severe staff shortages, and patients are finding it harder to see their GP."

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