Women walks out of a health service door.

British public satisfaction with the NHS lowest in 25 years – Healthwatch England response

March 30, 2022

More people in England, Scotland and Wales are now dissatisfied (41%) with the NHS than are satisfied for the first time since 2002, according to a report from King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust.

The findings show the lowest levels of satisfaction with GPs (38%), dentists (33%), A&E (39%) and both hospital inpatient (41%) and outpatient (49%) services since it began tracking public attitudes.

Satisfaction with the NHS overall in 2021

  • Overall satisfaction with the NHS fell to 36 per cent – an unprecedented 17 percentage point decrease on 2020. This is the lowest level of satisfaction recorded since 1997, when satisfaction fell to 34 per cent. More people (41 per cent) were dissatisfied with the NHS than satisfied.
  • This fall in satisfaction was seen across all ages, income groups, sexes and supporters of different political parties. 
  • The main reason people gave for being dissatisfied with the NHS overall was waiting times for GP and hospital appointments (65 per cent) followed by staff shortages (46 per cent) and a view that the government does not spend enough money on the NHS (40 per cent).
  • Of those who were satisfied with the NHS overall, the top reason was because the NHS is free at the point of use (78 per cent), followed by the quality of NHS care (65 per cent) and that it has a good range of services (58 per cent). 

People strongly support the founding principles of the NHS: that it is funded by general taxation and available free of charge. They also remain happy with the quality of care they receive and with the attitude and behaviour of staff they encounter when being treated.

Louise Ansari, National Director at Healthwatch England said:

“With the NHS facing pressures across the whole system, these findings are not a reflection on how hard the NHS is working, but an important reality check about people’s current satisfaction with the service they are getting – something decision makers just can’t afford to ignore.

Our own findings show that people recognise the pressure health services are under as they seek to recover from the pandemic. However, people are increasingly concerned about the changes to how they access GP services, the backlog of elective care, the shortage of NHS dental appointments, and the impact the delays to care are having on their health and wellbeing. 

For example, access to NHS dental care has been one of the most significant issues raised with us over the last two years, with four in five people telling us they had struggled to see an NHS dentist.

And it is often the most vulnerable people in our society, including children, disabled people and those living on low incomes, who are suffering the most. 

As we recover from the pandemic, services need to work hand in hand with people to create a healthcare system that is sustainable and designed around patients’ needs.”

The representative survey of 3,112 Britons was undertaken in September and October last year by National Centre for Social Research.

As we recover from the pandemic, services need to work hand in hand with people to create a healthcare system that is sustainable and designed around patients’ needs.”

Share your experiences 

It is more important than ever to let health and social care services know what has worked well for you and what needs improving.

Share your views and experiences at: Because We all Care Survey, email: enquiries@healthwatchhalton.co.uk; or call 0300 777 6543.