Chapter summary: NHS

Taking the pulse: attitudes to the health service

We know that the spending increases and improvements in service delivery that took place under Labour were reflected in increased public satisfaction with the NHS. Here we examine the state of public attitudes towards the start of the Coalition government’s term in office, a period during which they have proposed a number of radical reforms in relation to the NHS.

Satisfaction with the NHS overall is at its highest ever level, though the picture in relation to specific services is more mixed.

  • Seven out of ten people (70%) are satisfied with the NHS overall, the highest level ever recorded by the survey; the figure is up from 34% in 1997, when it was at its lowest point.
  • Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters’ satisfaction increased by eight and nine percentage points respectively between 2009 and 2010, while Labour supporters’ satisfaction levels remained stable.
  • Satisfaction with most NHS services has not changed substantially since 2009. However, satisfaction with emergency services has increased in the last two years. For example, satisfaction with hospital accident and emergency departments now stands at 61%, up from 53% in 2008 and 43% in 2001.

Expectations about waiting times have improved dramatically over the last decade. Positive views on waiting times are linked to satisfaction with the NHS overall, so this presents a challenge to the Coalition: how to maintain these high levels of satisfaction now that certain targets on waiting times have been dropped.

  • The proportion who think they would get an outpatient appointment for a bad back within three months stands at 73%, up from 50% just four years earlier in 2006.

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