Staff shortages driving down public satisfaction with NHS

The latest British Social Attitudes poll for 2018 shows satisfaction levels with the health service have dropped to the lowest level since 2007, with just 53% of people either “very” or “quite” satisfied with how it runs.

“Nurses on the NHS frontline in England experience the same dissatisfaction reported by patients”

Donna Kinnair

The score is a 3% drop from 2017 and continues a downward trend seen in recent years.

Not enough staff featured in the top three reasons for dissatisfaction with the NHS, with 52% of respondents unhappy with the situation. Long waiting times (53%) and lack of government funding (49%) were the other two.

A third of respondents identified waste as a reason for dissatisfaction, and one in five cited government reforms.

For those who were satisfied with the NHS, the majority (71%) said it was because of the quality of care and the NHS being free at the point of use (62%).

Almost half said they were satisfied because of the good range of services available and the attitudes and behaviour of NHS staff.

The results show satisfaction with outpatient services has hit the highest level since the survey began in 1983 and is rated higher than any other service for the first time.

“These findings show the inevitable consequence of starving the NHS of funding”

Niall Dickson

Just 26% of respondents were satisfied with social care services according to the survey, which was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research and published by think-tanks the King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust (see report attached).

Meanwhile, satisfaction with GP services remained at its lowest level since the survey began.

The authors of the report noted how the “outpouring of affection” that accompanied the NHS 70th birthday in 2018 did not stem falling levels of public satisfaction with the service.

They added: “Satisfaction with the NHS sits at its lowest level for more than a decade, driven by concerns about a lack of money, staff shortages and mounting waiting times.

“The new funding settlement for the NHS and accompanying long-term plan have set the direction of travel for the next 10 years, but with less-firm commitments to reducing waiting times than there were in the past, and the government’s strategy for dealing with critical workforce issues still outstanding, we must wait to see when the decade-long slide in public satisfaction with the NHS will come to an end,” they said.

Royal College of Nursing

Leading nurse becomes patient safety charity patron

Source: Kate Stanworth

Dame Donna Kinnair

Dame Donna Kinnair, acting chief executive and general secretary for the Royal College of Nursing, said the steady decline in public opinion could only be halted with “sizeable investment” in the care sector including getting more nurses on the ground.

“Nurses on the NHS frontline in England experience the same dissatisfaction reported by patients – they know they can’t always give their patients the care and attention they’d like to,” she said.

Jackie Williams, national officer for the union Unite, said it was “clear” that government needed to give a further financial boost to the NHS and embark on a “massive” recruitment campaign to plug staff shortages.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the health sector, blamed the results on austerity.

“These findings show the inevitable consequence of starving the NHS of funding for the best part of a decade,” he said. “We should be under no illusions about the scale of the task we face to restore public confidence in the health service.”

Mr Dickson said waiting times, staff shortages and inadequate funding levels were all major concerns for frontline health leaders. 

niall dickson

niall dickson

Source: Neil O’Connor

Niall Dickson

On a positive note, Mr Dickson said the survey results showed the public still supported the underlying principles of the NHS – being free at the point of use – and that public satisfaction with hospital services was rising.

The new funding for the NHS and the ambitions of the 10-year plan would “go a long way to helping restore public confidence”, he added.

The survey was carried out between July and October 2018 questioning just under 3,000 people across England, Scotland and Wales.