The British: 64% of are satisfied with the NHS
Public satisfaction with the National Health Service has reached record levels, according to Professor John Appleby, a leading health economist, writing on the British Medical Journal website. He was referring to the British Social Attitudes Survey, in which 64% of people declared they are either very or quite satisfied with the NHS – the highest satisfaction level since the very first survey almost three decades ago, and far higher than the 2001 level of 39%.
Additionally, satisfaction with general practitioners (GPs) was 80% -- just below its peak in the 1990s.
Despite this, the British Government is reforming the NHS, with the Department of Health (DoH) claiming the task is necessary to sustain the future of the healthcare service. Critics, however, are still questioning why, when the public is happy, it should change.
‘The NHS,’ commented Prof. Appleby, of the King’s Fund think tank, ‘must have been doing something right to earn this extra satisfaction, something even Conservative supporters have noticed, and something probably not unadjacent to the large rise in funding since 2000.’
This was when the Labour Party was in government. ‘The evidence is there to see, that Labour left the NHS with the highest ever levels of public satisfaction,’ said Shadow Health Secretary John Healey, ‘even among Conservative voters.’
Nonetheless, with a considerable portion of the NHS budget to be handed to GPs, a DoH spokesperson pointed out: ‘We welcome the findings that show public satisfaction levels are good, particularly with GPs. Our reforms will empower GPs, not bureaucrats, to commission services. If we want to sustain the NHS in the future, we need to modernise now.’
However, the British Medical Association (BMA), the association and registered trade union for UK doctors, has appealed to the government to halt the NHS overhaul. ‘With survey results like this you have to question why the government feels it is necessary to embark on such a radical and costly re-organisation of the NHS right now, particularly when you take into account the financial pressure the service is already under,’ a BMA spokesperson explained, adding: ‘It’s also clear that the NHS is re-emerging as a worry for the public and, taken alongside recent criticism from the BMA, Lib-Dem conference and a GP among his backbenchers, it is difficult to see how David Cameron [UK Prime Minister]can claim support for his overhaul of the NHS.’
As Prof. Appleby pointed out, future British Social Attitudes surveys will reveal how satisfied the public will remain after NHS funding is squeezed and the government's proposed reforms take hold.