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Kings Fund - Public satisfaction with the NHS at second highest level ever, shows research for latest British Social Attitudes survey

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.'

Notes to editors: 

For further information or to arrange an interview with John Appleby, please contact the Fund's Press and Public Affairs team on 020 7307 2549 (if calling out of hours, please ring 07584 146 035) or email mediaoffice@kingsfund.org.uk.

The survey was undertaken by NatCen Social Research, with interviews taking place between August and November 2014. The sample size for the overall NHS satisfaction question was 1,937. Interviews were carried out with a random sample of adults. The data is weighted to ensure it is representative of the general population.

Since the British Social Attitudes survey began in 1983, the highest ever public satisfaction level with the way the National Health Service runs was 70 per cent, in 2010.

With less than 100 days until the polls open on 7 May, The King's Fund is re-launching its general election web content at www.kingsfund.org.uk/election to include key facts, figures and analysis of the big topics in health and social care. Updates will provide further commentary and analysis in the run-up to polling day.

About the British Social Attitudes survey

The British Social Attitudes survey is owned and directed by NatCen Social Research, and has been conducted every year since 1983 with the exception of 1988 and 1992.The NHS is one among a number of topics covered by the survey. This is the fourth year that The King's Fund has sponsored health questions in the survey. A further paper, co-authored by NatCen and The King's Fund and covering these and the results from other health and health care questions, will be published as part of NatCen’s annual British Social Attitudes report in spring.

The main question asked was 'All in all, how satisfied or dissatisfied would you say you are with the way in which the National Health Service runs nowadays?' Satisfaction as reported here aggregates those who answer 'very' and 'quite' satisfied. It includes those who have had recent contact with the NHS and those who have not. The order in which topics are covered in the survey, and the order in which questions on the NHS are asked, have not changed in recent years.

The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and health care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible care is available to all.

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