News report

Low public satisfaction with the NHS

28 March 2024

Public satisfaction with the National Health Service (the NHS) in the UK has fallen to its lowest level in 40 years.

Only 24% of people who responded to the 2023 annual British Social Attitudes survey in England, Scotland and Wales were happy with the NHS.

“Satisfaction with every service – from Accident and Emergency to dentistry – is at or near historic lows,” said Thea Stein and Sarah Woolnough, chief executives of the Nuffield Trust and the King’s Fund think tanks respectively. “These are shocking figures for a service that is seen as a crowning jewel in the British state.”

This news could be very worrying for political leaders, especially with a general election coming later this year. Investment in the NHS is always seen as an important vote winner for the political parties and there is disagreement about how the health service is funded and whether more private provision should be encouraged.

Last week, the labour parties shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, told ‘the Financial Times’ that he wanted to end the health service’s reliance on private companies. He wants to return to a time when “the NHS was so good that people didn’t feel the need to go private”.

The problems in NHS have been made worse by a series of strikes by junior doctors and consultant.

The survey also shows that the public “fully support NHS staff who they feel are doing a good job under extremely difficult circumstances”.

People remain loyal to the institution and its founding principles: that it is free at the point of use “for all people from the cradle to the grave”. Almost half (48%) of respondents said that they would be happy to pay higher taxes  so that more money can be spent on the health service.

“Changing the model of the NHS is not something the public wants,” said the British Social Attitudes survey – “they just want the model they have got to work”.