View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

The Research Brief: NHS faces record low satisfaction levels, alongside record high backlogs

Your weekly dose of policy thinking.

By Spotlight

Welcome to the Research Brief, where Spotlight, the New Statesman’s policy section, brings you the pick of recent publications from the think tank, charity and NGO world. See more editions of the Research Brief here.

What are we talking about this week? The desperate state of the NHS (again). While the health service contends with record high waiting lists, it is also facing record lows of public approval. According to the latest annual British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, less than one in four Britons (24 per cent) reported that they were satisfied with the NHS in 2023, a 5 per cent drop from the previous year. These record low levels are a contrast to 2010, when satisfaction levels were at 70 per cent – an all time high. The yearly survey, which gathers responses from residents in England, Scotland and Wales, has tracked public satisfaction with the NHS since 1983.

What’s the gist? The long and short of the survey’s findings can be described as: nobody is pleased with the NHS, and the points of contention are in its key basic functions. Those who reported feeling dissatisfied with the health service were prompted to rank the reasons why. The most (un)popular reason was that it “takes too long to get a GP or hospital appointment” (71 per cent). This was followed by people feeling that there are not enough NHS staff (54 per cent) and that the government is failing to spend enough money on the health service (47 per cent).

The fact that satisfaction in both the NHS overall and in individual services is low differs from trends seen in previous periods of public dissatisfaction with the health service. Researchers at the King’s Fund think tank, in their analysis of the BSA survey, note that when NHS satisfaction dropped to a low of 34 per cent in 1994, “satisfaction with individual services remained relatively high (for example, more than 70 per cent of respondents were satisfied with GP services during this period)”.

How low can you go? Well, quite. The 2023 polling not only reveals record-low dissatisfaction with the health service as a whole, but with specific NHS services too. For instance, only 34 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with GP services – the lowest level of satisfaction recorded since the survey began. NHS dentistry satisfaction levels, meanwhile, fell to a record low of 24 per cent in 2023, while dissatisfaction increased to a record high of 48 per cent. 

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Do I want to hear any more? It’s not pretty. Both inpatient and outpatient services remain at record low levels of satisfaction. Only 35 per cent said they were satisfied with inpatient services (no change from the previous year); while 44 per cent were satisfied with outpatient services, down 1 percentage point from 2022. Social care isn’t excluded: only 13 per cent reported feeling satisfied with the services offered by local councils in 2023.

Another record low? I’m afraid so.

So, everyone’s angry at the NHS? Yes and no. Over half of respondents said that they were “very or quite dissatisfied” with the health service in 2023, again, a record high. (24 per cent said they were “neither satisfied or dissatisfied”.) But despite the low overall satisfaction, responses to other questions made it clear that “the public still believe in the principles of the NHS”, according to the King’s Fund researchers. The survey reveals that a “large majority” agree that the NHS should be available to everyone (82 per cent), free of charge (91 per cent), and primarily funded through taxes (82 per cent).

On the final point, the public attitude seems in contrast to the government’s actions in regards to public finances. In March’s Budget, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced a 2 per cent cut in National Insurance, having done the same thing in his Autumn statement last November. But only 6 per cent of respondents said that they would choose for the government to reduce taxes, while spending less on the NHS. Nearly half (48 per cent) of respondents said they would prefer increasing taxes to spend more on the health service.

In a sentence? The NHS has a long, long way to go to win back the satisfaction of the public, but fundamentally Britons still believe in everything it stands for since the health service was established in 1948.

Read the full analysis from the King’s Fund

If you have a report, briefing paper or a piece of research that you’d like featured in the Research Brief, get in touch at spotlight@newstatesman.co.uk.

Content from our partners
Unlocking the potential of a national asset, St Pancras International
Time for Labour to turn the tide on children’s health
How can we deliver better rail journeys for customers?

Topics in this article : ,
Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU