Government accused of ‘neglecting’ the NHS after public satisfaction falls

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The Government has been accused of neglecting the NHS after research suggested public satisfaction with the health service has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade.

A survey found there are widespread public concerns over waiting lists, hospital staffing shortages and funding, despite more money being promised over the next five years.

Results of the British Social Attitudes Survey have led to warnings that NHS staff are struggling against a lack of investment and chronic hospital overcrowding.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Association Chair of Council, said: “Patients are being treated in hospitals that have had years of neglect and by a health service that we know is grossly underfunded.”

The British Social Attitudes Survey found that 53 per cent of people in 2018 were quite or very satisfied with the way the NHS is run, down three percentage points from 2017 and the lowest figure since 2007. In 2016, 63 per cent of people were satisfied, compared to 65 per cent in 2014.

Ruth Robertson, senior fellow at the King’s Fund, said she was surprised by the results of the survey, in the year the NHS celebrated its 70th anniversary and was promised an additional £20.5bn per year. “We didn’t see this ‘birthday bounce’ that you might have expected in satisfaction,” she said.

The survey of almost 3,000 people in England, Scotland and Wales was carried out between last July and October.

The main reasons people gave for being dissatisfied overall were long waits for GP and hospital appointments, not enough staff, a lack of funding and money being wasted. Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “For public satisfaction in the NHS to have plummeted to such depths on the back of nearly nine years of austerity, wider cuts, staff shortages and privatisation is a damning indictment of the Tory stewardship of this vital public service.”

Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff said: “When will they address the urgent need to restore financial support for nursing students and address the problems with recruitment of the doctors and nurses we desperately need?”

More than two-thirds of those who were satisfied with the health service said it was because of the high quality of care, while 62 per cent said it was the fact it is free at the point of use.

Satisfaction with GPs dropped two percentage points to 63 per cent, the lowest level since the survey was first carried out in 1983.

The Department of Health and Social Care said almost three quarters of patients are satisfied with the quality of care they receive.

A spokesperson said: “The NHS in England was recently ranked as the safest and best health service in the world and its dedicated staff are delivering high-quality care to more patients than ever before. The launch of the Long Term plan, backed by an extra £33.9bn a year by 2023/24, will safeguard our health service for generations to come and transform patient care by improving outcomes for major conditions, treating more people in their communities and increasing the frontline workforce.”