The British Social Attitudes Survey has indicated that last year saw the biggest ever rise in public dissatisfaction with the NHS.
Documenting satisfaction with a wide variety of different public bodies, the survey has been running since 1983.
Figures collated by the research suggest that 40% of respondents were dissatisfied with the quality of service being provided by the NHS.
The highest previous figure of this nature was 30%, which was recorded back in 2010.
And over 50% of those who indicated that they were less than satisfied were actively dissatisfied with the quality of health service treatment.
This was a rise of 8 percentage points from the previous year, and represented the biggest jump in this figure since the survey began over three decades ago.
Waiting times were cited as the biggest reason for dissatisfaction – mentioned by over half of respondents – followed by insufficient staffing.
The findings from the survey can be placed in the context of the NHS facing numerous problems, not least waiting time targets that are failing to be satisfactorily met.
With continuing discord between the government and junior doctors in particular, the chances of the quality of service from the NHS improving in the near future would seem to be limited.
However, encouragingly patients reported highest satisfaction rates for GP services.
But low marks for social care must be a major headache.
The survey – carried out by NatCen Social Research – covered Scotland, Wales and England, also found that there is no significant difference in satisfaction between the three nations.
However, there is no doubt that the overall figures collated should be a cause for concern for both NHS management and the overarching government system.
Chris Ham, chief executive of the King’s Fund think-tank, commented on the results of the survey, and suggested that the results should instigate direct action.
Ham was, though, keen to point out that overall satisfaction levels should still be considered fairly high, particularly in comparison to other comparable bodies.
“What’s gone wrong is the public’s perception of the NHS under growing pressure. Money is tight, waiting times are getting longer, people are concerned that when they need the NHS it might not be there for them,” Ham asserted.
Responding to the findings, a spokesman for the Department of Health in England suggested that demographic issues are having a serious impact on the ability of the NHS to deliver satisfactory patient care.
“There is pressure on the NHS as our population ages, and that’s why the government is investing record amounts to transform care.”