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NHS approval ratings constant after fall last year

By Richard Johnstone | 3 April 2013

Public satisfaction with the NHS remained broadly stable in 2012 after a record fall in ratings the previous year, the British Social Attitudes Survey revealed today.

The poll, published by the King’s Fund think-tank, found that 61% of people were satisfied with the NHS, compared with 58% in 2011 and 70% in 2010.

Analysing the results, King’s Fund’s chief economist John Appleby said that the small increase this year indicated that satisfaction might take some time to return to the 2010 level.

‘The British Social Attitudes Survey has provided an important barometer of how the public views the NHS since 1983,’ he said. ‘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 fact that satisfaction had not fallen further could mean public concern about the government’s NHS reforms and spending efficiency drive has ‘levelled off’, the report said.

The survey also measured attitudes to individual health services. Satisfaction with GP services was highest at 74%, no change from the previous year.

Satisfaction with A&E services increased by 5 percentage points in 2012, from 54% to 59%. However, there was little change in the approval ratings for outpatient services, at 64%, and inpatient services, 52%, over 2011. Satisfaction with dentists, at 56%, was also constant.

Overall and despite the fall in approval in 2011, the satisfaction levels for the NHS were still the third highest since the poll began in 1983.

In contrast, satisfaction with social care services was only 30%.

The NHS Confederation said the findings showed that a majority of people are satisfied with the health service, but there was ‘absolutely no room for complacency’.

Director of policy Johnny Marshall added: ‘The recent report into Mid Staffordshire rightly identified that it is crucial for every local organisation to pay careful attention to what their patients and communities are saying about services, using feedback from individual experiences as well as surveys like this.’

The survey was undertaken by NatCen Social Research, which conducted 1,103 interviews between July and September 2012.

The King’s Fund report comes as the government’s controversial reforms to the NHS are implemented. From April 1, 211 Clinical Commissioning Groups take on responsibility for the commissioning of health care across England. The Department of Health has hit out at Unison’s attack on the changes, saying the union was ‘scaremongering’ to suggest patients and staff would suffer following the changes.

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