The British Social Attitudes survey, a longstanding measure of public opinion on the healthcare system, has revealed that public satisfaction with the NHS has hit its lowest level ever recorded.
In 2022, only 29% of respondents stated they were content with the service, with lengthy waiting times and staff shortages identified as the biggest concerns. This marks a decrease of seven percentage points compared to the previous year and a significant drop from the high point of 70% satisfaction recorded in 2010.
The poll has been conducted annually since 1983 and is widely considered the leading indicator of public attitudes towards the NHS. Satisfaction levels for all services, including A&E, GPs, dentistry and hospital care, showed a decline. The drop in satisfaction was evident across all income groups, political affiliations, genders and age ranges. The survey revealed that respondents placed the greatest importance on the NHS being free at the point of use and the quality of care provided. Over 80% supported the idea that the NHS should be accessible to all and primarily funded through taxes. While 43% said taxes should rise to increase funding, 28% stated the NHS should operate within its budget.
The findings, which were published by think tanks Nuffield Trust and King's Fund, who sponsor the health questions, highlight a significant challenge for policy-makers, according to Dan Wellings of the King's Fund. He stated that it would take a significant effort to restore public confidence in the NHS, given the scale of the fall in satisfaction.
Satisfaction with social care services, which are administered by councils, was even lower, with only 14% of respondents stating they were content with care homes, home help and children's care. Patient watchdog Healthwatch England stated that the results align with the feedback they have received, and that access to services remains a significant issue for patients.