Public satisfaction with the NHS and social care

April 3, 2017

Data published by The King’s Fund highlights public satisfaction with the NHS and social care. It shows that the British public’s satisfaction with the NHS remained steady in 2016, but people are much less satisfied with social care.

The findings from the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research between July and October 2016, show 63% of people were satisfied with the NHS. The change in satisfaction since 2015 (when it was 60%) is not statistically significant. Satisfaction remains high by historic standards, but is seven percentage points below its peak of 70% in 2010.

The survey also shows that people continued to be much more satisfied with the NHS than social care. Only 26% of respondents were satisfied with local authority social care services, less than half the level of satisfaction with the least popular NHS service (A&E). Social care services are defined as ‘personal support services provided by local authorities for people who cannot look after themselves because of illness, disability or age’.

Regarding social care, the report also says that, ‘Compared to questions on NHS services, there is a higher proportion of “don’t know” responses to the social care satisfaction question (12% compared to 4% for GP services). This may be because people are less familiar with social care services and are less likely to have had experience, either personal or through relatives or friends, of using them.’

Other results show:

  • Among the 63% of respondents who said they were satisfied with the NHS in 2016, the most frequently cited reasons were the quality of care (65%), care being free at the point of use (59%), and the range of services available (47%).
  • Among the 22% who were dissatisfied with the NHS, the most frequently cited reasons were waiting times (54%), lack of staff (48%), and lack of funding (45%).
  • Satisfaction with GP services was 72%, which, as in previous years, is higher than for any other NHS service.
  • Satisfaction with NHS dentistry services was 61%, up by seven percentage points since 2015. This is one of the highest levels of public satisfaction with NHS dentistry since the early 1990s

In 2016, there was no statistically significant change in satisfaction with the three hospital-based services covered by the survey compared to 2015. Fifty-four per cent of respondents were satisfied with A&E services, 60% with inpatient services, and 68% with outpatient services.

There was no statistically significant difference between the levels of satisfaction reported by supporters of the Conservatives (66%), Labour (63%), and Liberal Democrats (68%) in 2016. In the past, satisfaction levels have tended to be higher among supporters of the governing party.

Ruth Robertson, Policy Fellow at The King’s Fund, said, ‘The survey findings demonstrate the high value the British public place on the quality of care provided by the NHS and how they cherish the availability of a comprehensive service that is free at the point of use.

‘It’s unsurprising that dissatisfaction with the NHS is mostly driven by waiting times, staff shortages, and underfunding, as the NHS is facing severe financial pressures.

‘These results also show once again that people are much less satisfied with social care services than with the NHS. This may partly be due to the public having less understanding of what social care services are, but it also reflects the crisis facing social care funding. The clear dissatisfaction with social care services reinforces the importance of the Government’s Green Paper later this year as a crucial opportunity to put social care on a sustainable footing.’


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