Public satisfaction with the NHS has dropped to its lowest ever level, according to a major new survey.

And dissatisfaction with the service has doubled in the last two years as people struggle to access services and believe there are not enough staff to deliver high quality care.

While the public stands unabashedly proud of the service and what it stands for, just over a quarter (29%) said they were satisfied with how the service runs, according to the 2022 British Social Attitudes survey.

NHS survey graphic(PA Graphics)

This is the lowest level since the survey began in 1983 and a major drop since 2010 when 70% said they were satisfied with the NHS.

Data from the poll of 3,362 people from England, Wales and Scotland, analysed by the Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund think tanks, also show that overall dissatisfaction with the way the NHS is run increased to 51% – the highest level since the survey began.

This figure has doubled in just two years, with dissatisfaction over the NHS recorded at 25% in 2020

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The top reasons for dissatisfaction were about funding, staffing and access to care – some 69% said it takes too long to get a GP or hospital appointment, 55% said that there are not enough NHS staff and 50% said the Government does not spend enough money on the NHS, according to the survey, which was conducted by the National Centre for Social Research in September and October 2022.

The results of the social care polling have already been released but also paint a worrying picture, with only 14% satisfied and 57% dissatisfied with how the social care service is run.

Meanwhile, a smaller survey of 1,187 people found that satisfaction with different NHS services is at record lows.

(PA Graphics)(PA Graphics)

Dissatisfaction with A&E services rose to 40% – the highest ever level since the question was first asked in 1989.

Meanwhile, some 42% said they were dissatisfied with NHS dentistry.

And just over a third (35%) said they were satisfied with GP services, the lowest level recorded.

But the authors said that public commitment to the principles of the NHS is “undimmed” with the majority of people agreeing that the service should be free at the point of use; available to everyone; and that it should be primarily funded through taxes.

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Jessica Morris, report author and fellow at the Nuffield Trust, said: “The fact we have now recorded the lowest level of satisfaction with the NHS in the 40-year history of this gold standard survey is a warning siren.

“The Prime Minister has made recovering the NHS one of his central promises going into the next general election, but these results show what an enormous task this will be.

“It is clear that the level of unhappiness amongst the British public over the way the NHS is running is going to take many years to recover.”

Dan Wellings, report author and senior fellow at The King’s Fund, added: “Even with satisfaction dropping to its lowest ever level, support for the founding principles of the NHS remains strong.

“The public do not want a different model of healthcare, they just want the current model to work.”

He added: “Satisfaction ebbs and flows, but the the belief in the institution is absolutely rock solid.

“It’s still the thing that makes us proudest to be British but these results are very clear – it’s not working for large numbers of people right now.

“I think behind the numbers, there are people who are really struggling to get care and support and access for themselves or their family members.”

He said the results should ring “loud, continuous alarm bells in the corridors of power”, adding: “This is as bad as I’ve ever seen in an NHS survey.”

Commenting, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “These sad but significant findings show the public’s frustration with the status quo around health and social care and should serve as a red flag to the Government.”

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An NHS spokesperson said: “While this survey reflects the public’s perceptions of the significant pressure on our services, it is clear the overwhelming majority still very firmly value the fundamental principles of the NHS – which is welcome as we head towards the NHS’s 75th birthday.

“Importantly, even with more people accessing our services than ever before, it also shows strong satisfaction with the range of services and the quality of care patients receive, which is a testament to our hardworking, dedicated staff working across all corners of the NHS.

“However, there is no doubt that the NHS has been under sustained pressure in recent months which has impacted the experiences of patients – at the time this survey was carried out, staff had just treated more people with Covid-19 in hospital over the summer than the past two combined, GPs were delivering millions more appointments each month compared to before the pandemic, and it was the busiest October ever for A&E attendances and the most serious ambulance call-outs.

“The NHS is taking significant steps to further improve patient experience, including our recently launched blueprint to recover urgent and emergency care alongside continuing to slash the long waits for elective treatment which inevitably built up during the pandemic, and we are working on new plans to boost primary care for patients as well as publishing a long-term workforce strategy shortly.”

A Department of Health & Social Care spokesperson said: “Cutting waiting lists is one of the Prime Minister’s five priorities and so far, we have virtually eliminated waits of over two years for treatment and latest figures show the number of patients waiting over 18 months has reduced by 80 percent from the peak.

“We have delivered 3.3 million tests, scans and checks to detect cancer and other conditions as early as possible through our 94 community diagnostic centres and more will be rolled out this year.

“At the same we are investing up to £14.1 billion in health and social care over the next two years to support the workforce and ensure patients receive the highest-quality care.”