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Drop in public satisfaction with the NHS ‘a red flag for government’

Drop in public satisfaction with the NHS ‘a red flag for government’: The Kings Fund and Nuffield Trust have released analysis of the 2022 British Social Attitudes Survey, which shows that public satisfaction in the NHS has fallen to just 29% – the lowest level since the survey began in 1983.

Satisfaction has dropped across the board, with waiting times for appointments, staff shortages and underfunding being key reasons. However, the public continue to support the founding principles of the NHS, with nine out of 10 agreeing that the NHS should be free at the point of use.

In response, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:

“These sad but significant findings show the public’s frustration with the status quo around health and social care and should serve as a red flag to the government.

“The fact that public satisfaction with the NHS is at its lowest in 40 years should not be seen as a judgement of the efforts of frontline staff to recover services in the wake of the pandemic but rather, a sign that the NHS is not being given what it needs to fully deliver for its local communities.

“Health leaders will take heart in the acknowledgment that the NHS has its hands tied. Staff shortages and a view that the government does not spend enough money on the NHS are two key reasons behind the dissatisfaction, and echo what leaders have been saying for years. With there being around 124,000 reported vacancies across the NHS in England and a maintenance backlog stretching over £10bn this is hardly surprising.

“This should give further impetus to the government to fast track a fully funded workforce plan and provide funding increases to pay for both pay rises and improvements to the NHS‘s crumbling estate. It is also clear that action on social care is more urgent than ever, with just 14% of respondents saying they were satisfied with social care.

“With staffing shortages as they are – and recognised by the public as an issue – the government must find a way to resolve the current impasse in talks with junior doctors. Worryingly, this survey was carried out before industrial action began last year, meaning that staffing shortages may be even more of a priority now for the public.

“The findings will confirm for health leaders that their focus on tackling waiting times is the right one, with delivering recovery plans for A&E and primary care high on their agenda. Also, the survey shows that the public continues to support the founding principles of the NHS, with nine out of 10 agreeing that it should be free at the point of use, and they are appreciative of the range of services and the quality of care it provides.

“However, leaders will fear that without action from government to tackle two of the public’s main concerns, levels of dissatisfaction will further increase from a record 51% in the next year. We urge the government to not let this happen and help the NHS to deliver for the public.”

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