Abstracts: October 31st, 2012

The annual survey to find out public perceptions of the NHS shows a decline in satisfaction with the current situation and concern about the future.

The survey is the latest in a series conducted by the Ipsos MORI Social
Research Institute for the Department of Health between Spring 2000 and Spring 2012. It aims to explore public perceptions of the NHS and to track how perceptions have changed over time.

The survey consists of ‘tracker’ questions which are asked in every wave of the survey, but also includes topical questions which change over time. For example, questions about reforms to the NHS have been added to the most recent waves of the survey. This flexibility means that the research reflects the most current issues facing the NHS.

Seven in ten (69%) people are satisfied with the current running of the National Health Service (NHS). This matches the level of satisfaction recorded in December 2011 (70%). However, this is now significantly lower than between December 2009 and December 2008 when 73% of the public were satisfied.

The number of people saying they are very satisfied with the NHS is now 17%. This has fallen significantly since 24% was recorded in December 2009.

High levels of satisfaction are being maintained at a local level (75% agree their local NHS provides a good service) and among service users (71% satisfied).

However, there has been a six percentage point fall in agreement that the government has the right policies for the NHS since December 2009 (from 28% to 22% now). This continues a steady decline since 37% was recorded in December 2009. Nearly half of people (45%) now disagree that the government has the right policies.

These attitudes are likely to be linked to perceptions of the reforms. More than two in five people (43%) think the changes the government is making to the NHS will make services worse for patients (an increase on 38% in December 2011). There has also been a decrease in the proportion agreeing that the NHS is changing so it can provide the service we need for years to come (44% agree now compared to 50% in December 2011).

When asked what the changes being made to the NHS involve, 15% say ‘greater
provision of services by the private sector’ and 26% say ‘cuts to services’. Seven in ten (70%) of those mentioning either of these perceived reforms expect the changes being made to the NHS to make services worse for patients.

Overall levels of optimism for the future of the NHS remain divided with 35%
expecting it to get better over the next few years, and 32% expecting it to get worse. This is a more positive outlook than as recorded between 2005 and 2010.

The Tracker Survey can be downloaded here.