Public satisfaction with the way the National Health Service runs has risen to its second highest level ever, according to British Social Attitudes survey data for 2014 published by The King’s Fund.
With less than 100 days until voters go to the polls in a general election where the NHS seems certain to be a central issue, the survey data provides an important barometer of how the public views the NHS. The latest results show public satisfaction with the NHS rising from 60 to 65 per cent in 2014, while dissatisfaction fell to an all-time low of 15 per cent.
Analysis of the data shows an 11 percentage point increase in satisfaction among Labour supporters (to 69 per cent). Satisfaction among Lib Dem supporters increased by 5 percentage points (to 68 per cent) and remained about the same among Conservatives (at 67 per cent), leaving a close convergence between the supporters of the three main parties. Satisfaction among supporters of UKIP was lower, at 57 per cent.
Previous surveys have tended to show higher satisfaction levels among supporters of the governing party or parties. With the NHS having been under financial pressure and experiencing difficulties in meeting A&E waiting times targets, both of which have been widely reported in the media, this rise in satisfaction among Labour supporters could suggest a vote of support for the NHS as an institution, at a time when some see it as under threat.
While satisfaction among respondents with recent personal experience of the NHS increased by 4 percentage points from 2013 to 2014, it jumped 11 percentage points among those who had no recent contact with the NHS, either personally or through friends or family members.
Findings from the survey, conducted by NatCen Social Research, on specific services were:
- while GP services remain the most popular NHS service in terms of satisfaction, the satisfaction rating of 71 per cent in 2014 was the lowest since the survey began
- satisfaction with outpatient services is at an all-time high of 69 per cent
- accident and emergency (A&E) services experienced an increase in satisfaction to 58 per cent (from 53 per cent last year) despite much-publicised difficulties in meeting waiting time targets in 2014
- satisfaction with dentists remained lower than with other NHS services, with 54 per cent of respondents satisfied with the service
- satisfaction with social care services is far lower than with the NHS, with just 31 per cent of respondents satisfied with social care and 30 per cent being dissatisfied.
John Appleby, Chief Economist at The King’s Fund, said: ‘With the NHS a leading issue ahead of the general election, the British Social Attitudes survey provides a useful snapshot of how the public views the NHS. Public satisfaction with the NHS is high and has risen significantly, despite a year in which the service hit the headlines for financial pressures and difficulties with A&E waiting times. But as well as an actual increase in satisfaction, this may in part reflect a desire among the public to show support for the NHS as an institution.’