Voters are happier than ever with NHS Chris Smyth in The Times

Voters are happier than ever with NHS
Chris Smyth in The Times, 29th Jan 2015.
Satisfaction with the NHS has jumped five points to 65 per cent, according to an authoritative
survey that came after a day of political mudslinging over the state of the health service.
With the NHS bound to be an election battleground, voters said they were broadly pleased
with its performance.
Satisfaction last year climbed to the second highest level in the 30-year history of the British
Social Attitudes Survey, with dissatisfaction at a record low of 15 per cent. However, the poll
of 1,900 people was carried out between August and November, before waiting times in
Accident and Emergency units increased sharply over Christmas.
Professor John Appleby, of the King’s Fundthink-tank, said that support for the NHS might
be rising as health climbed up the political agenda rather than because care was improving
markedly. The biggest rises in satisfaction were among Labour voters and those with no
recent personal experience of the health service, both of which were up 11 points.
“As well as an actual increase in satisfaction, this may in part reflect a desire among the
public to show support for the NHS as an institution,” Professor Appleby said.
“Public satisfaction with the NHS is high and has risen significantly, despite a year in which
the service hit the headlines for financial pressures and difficulties with A&E waiting times.”
Satisfaction climbed from a low of 36 per cent in 1996 to a peak of 70 per cent in 2010 before
falling back to about 60 per cent. While people were still most satisfied with the family
doctors, a 71 per cent rating was the lowest GP score on record. Satisfaction with A&E rose 5
points to 58 per cent.
Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, said: “These results are a tribute to hardworking NHS staff
who are unstinting in their efforts to ensure patients receive a world-class service.”
People in Scotland were the happiest with the NHS, with 75 per cent satisfied, up nine points
in a year, but in Wales satisfaction fell two points to 51 per cent. The figures are likely to be
seized on by the Conservatives, who have responded to attacks on their health record by
pointing out failings in Labour-run Wales.
Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents health service
bosses, said: “Satisfaction with the NHS remains high — something we should not lose sight
of during an election period that may see the NHS as a political football rather than see a real
focus on the issues we face.”
Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association council, insisted that the survey
“shows that NHS staff all go the extra mile to ensure that patients are the last to suffer from
the impact of the pressures on the health service”. However, he added: “Key areas, such as an
A&E and GP services, are under particular stress and in some cases are close to breaking