British satisfaction with healthcare drops to new low ahead of election

By Thomson Reuters Mar 27, 2024 | 3:46 AM

By Sarah Young

LONDON (Reuters) – British satisfaction with the state-owned National Health Service (NHS) dropped to a record low for 2023, showing the challenge for the government over a key concern for voters ahead of an election expected this year.

The British Social Attitudes survey found that 24% of people were satisfied with the service in 2023, five percentage points down from last year and the lowest level recorded since people were first asked in 1983.

Satisfaction has been falling for some years, with the pandemic accelerating the decline. Since 2020, satisfaction is down by 29 percentage points, with long waiting lists for procedures and staff shortages some of the top concerns.

“The results reflect yet another turbulent and difficult year for the NHS and for those that rely on its services,” the survey said.

Healthcare is consistently one of the top three issues for British voters and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, whose Conservative Party is trailing the Labour Party in opinion polls, has vowed to reduce waiting times.

But a series of strikes over pay by nurses and both junior and senior doctors has thwarted his efforts to make improvements.

When the opposition Labour Party was last in power in 2010, the satisfaction level stood at 70%.

Science minister Andrew Griffith said that the government is putting record resources into the NHS, including a 13% real terms increase in healthcare funding since 2019, but he noted the context of the pandemic and an ageing population.

“We are putting more demands on our healthcare system than ever before,” Griffith told Times Radio on Wednesday.

Since its founding in 1948, the NHS has developed national treasure status for being free at the point of use, and the survey showed that the public continue to support the current NHS model.

The survey, which polled more than 3,000 people and was published by the Nuffield Trust and King’s Fund think tanks, showed 48% of respondents were in favour of higher taxes to fund more spending on the NHS.

Over the last 70 years, Britain has spent more and more on health. In 2022-2023, 8.4% of UK GDP was spent on health, up from 2.8% in 1955-56, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Nick Macfie)