Headlines: June 12th, 2012

Public satisfaction with the way the NHS runs fell from 70 per cent in 2010 to 58 per cent in 2011. The fall is the largest since 1983 and follows a decade during which satisfaction with the NHS has increased almost every year.

The finding comes from the British Social Attitudes Survey which has tracked public attitudes about key areas of public policy since 1983. The health questions in the survey were sponsored by the King’s Fund. More than 1,000 people were surveyed from July to November last year, a period that coincided with the first year in a four year real terms freeze in NHS spending and sustained media coverage about the government’s health reforms.

The survey data shows that satisfaction with individual NHS services has also fallen. Satisfaction with GP services fell for the second consecutive year, dropping by 4 per cent from 77 per cent in 2010 to 73 per cent in 2011. Satisfaction with hospital services also fell. Inpatient services were down 4 per cent from 59 per cent in 2010 to 55 per cent in 2011. Outpatient and A&E services were down 7 per cent.

With the NHS performing well according to a number of key indicators and patient experience surveys, the report concludes that the fall in satisfaction is unlikely to reflect a deterioration in the quality of services. Instead it suggests the most likely explanation is that concern about the government’s health reforms, reaction to funding pressures and ministerial rhetoric to justify the reforms may have combined to dent public confidence in the way the NHS runs.