Public confidence in NHS stops falling

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John Appleby King's Fund (resized) Like a patient in acute care, public satisfaction with the NHS is now in a stable condition after a severe fall.

According to a King’s Fund report based on the annual British Social Attitudes survey, 61% of the public are ‘satisfied’ with NHS services, compared with 58% in 2011.

These figures are statistically equivalent, but follow a steep fall from 70% in 2010 – though 58% represents only a return to the 2008 level.

Satisfaction with social services in 2012 was at a much lower level (30%) than satisfaction with the NHS, suggesting that social care is the ‘poor relation’ in the family of integrated care.

The figures are based on interviews with over 1,000 randomly selected adults, with the data being weighted to match the overall adult population.

Public satisfaction with the NHS rose consistently from 40% in 2003 to 70% in 2010, but dropped by 12% in the first year of ‘austerity’ measures.

The 2012 figures show a 5% improvement in satisfaction with A&E services relative to 2011, and no significant changes in satisfaction with GP, inpatient or outpatient care.

John Appleby, Chief Economist at The King’s Fund, commented: “With no real change in satisfaction with the NHS in 2012, this suggests the record fall in 2011 was not a blip and that the ground lost may take some time to recover.”

However, the King’s Fund report also notes that the 2011 figures may reflect anxiety about NHS reform, while the 2012 may reflect a better experience of consistency in NHS services than many people had feared.

In support of this conclusion, the think tank notes that “key measures of performance likely to have been noticed by the public”, including waiting times and hospital infection levels, did not change between 2011 and 2012.