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March 2019

Patient satisfaction with general practice at lowest ebb



Public satisfaction with the NHS has fallen to its lowest level since 2007, according to analysis of the 2018 British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey published today by The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust.

The think tanks’ analysis also reveals that public satisfaction with general practice has declined over the past decade. In 2018, it remained at its lowest level since the survey began in 1983 (63%), while dissatisfaction with general practice remained at its highest level since the survey began. Almost a quarter (24%) of respondents reported being dissatisfied with their GP service – double the level of dissatisfaction in 2009.

The survey, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), is seen as a gold standard measure of public attitudes. It finds that, following a sharp drop in 2017, public satisfaction with the health service fell by a further 3 percentage points in 2018 to 53 per cent, its lowest level in over a decade and 16 percentage points below its historical peak of 70% in 2010. The continued fall in satisfaction came despite Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement last June – just before the interviews for the survey were undertaken – of a £20bn long-term funding boost for the health service.

Professor John Appleby, Director of Research and Chief Economist at The Nuffield Trust, said: ‘Satisfaction with general practice – historically the service people were most satisfied with – has been falling for the past decade and is now at its lowest since the BSA survey began over 30 years ago. This may reflect continued strain on general practice, with mounting workloads and staff shortages and the evidence shows that people are finding it harder to get appointments than before. The NHS long-term plan expects even more of general practice – these problems will need to be addressed quickly if that vision is to be made possible.’