Public satisfaction with the NHS at its lowest ever level, poll shows

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Public satisfaction with the NHS has fallen to its lowest ever level, with long delays to access care the biggest source of deepening frustration, a study has shown.

Just 24% of people across England, Scotland and Wales – the fewest on record – are satisfied with the health service, according to the latest British Social Attitudes research.

Satisfaction has plummeted by 29% since before Covid-19 emerged in early 2020 and by an enormous 46% from the highest-ever 70% recorded in 2010, when the Conservatives took power. It fell five points alone from 29% in 2022 to the 24% seen last year.

The number of people who are dissatisfied with the NHS is also at an all-time high – 52%.

Asked why they were dissatisfied, more respondents said that it took too long to get a GP or hospital appointment (71%) than mentioned any other issue. “Not enough NHS staff” was the second most-cited reason (54%), followed by “the government doesn’t spend enough on the NHS” (47%). Almost a third (32%) cited the NHS wasting money.

Dan Wellings, part of the team at the King’s Fund, which alongside fellow thinktank the Nuffield Trust analysed the BSA findings, said the results were “bleak but [also]should not be surprising after a year of strikes, scandals and sustained long waits for care”.

Satisfaction with GP services and NHS dental care has fallen to the lowest-ever level – just 24% for both services. Slightly more people, but still small numbers, are satisfied with A&E (31%) and inpatient services (35%). But satisfaction with social care services is even worse, at a mere 13%.

The Patients Association said it was dismayed by the BSA survey findings, which are seen as the authoritative picture of how the public is feeling about the NHS.

Years of mounting pressures on the NHS, and its increasing inability to meet treatment waiting times, have left its relationship with patients severely strained, the charity added.

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