NHS and social care
What impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on
satisfaction with the NHS and social care?
This chapter examines the public’s satisfaction with the NHS and social care, towards the middle of the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. It considers whether the pandemic’s wide-ranging impacts on health services led to people becoming more or less satisfied with the NHS. It looks at whether changes have been experienced across different sections of society and across a range of NHS services. It explores people’s reasons for expressing satisfaction (or not), whether having contact with NHS services affects satisfaction and how trends in satisfaction may relate to support for the key principles that underpin the NHS.
There has been a dramatic decline in satisfaction with the NHS, with satisfaction falling to 36%, a 17 percentage point drop since 2020, now standing 24 points lower than before the pandemic. This is the lowest level of satisfaction recorded since 1997. It has been accompanied by an increase in dissatisfaction, from 25% in 2020 to 41% now – the largest year-on-year rise in dissatisfaction recorded by the survey. More people are dissatisfied with the NHS than satisfied, for the first time since 2002.
Decline in satisfaction with the NHS
People are less satisfied with the NHS than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. This is true for different sections of the population and across a range of NHS services, with waiting times rising in prominence as a driver of dissatisfaction.
- The most popular explanation for being dissatisfied with the NHS is that it takes too long to get a GP or hospital appointment, selected by 65% when asked to choose up to three reasons. The proportion selecting this reason has risen by 8 percentage points since 2019.
- The second most common reason for dissatisfaction is that there are not enough NHS staff, selected by 46%, although this is down 16 points since 2019 when it was the most popular reason.
Satisfaction has declined across NHS services
There has been a fall in satisfaction across a range of health and care services, including GPs,
NHS dentists, inpatient and outpatient services, A&E and social care.
- Satisfaction with GP services has declined by 30 points since 2019 (to 38%), while satisfaction with NHS dentists has declined by 27 points (to 33%). Just 15% are satisfied with social care.
- There was a rise in dissatisfaction with GPs to 42% – the highest level for this service since the BSA survey began. Half of people (50%) are dissatisfied with social care, the highest level for any of the services asked about.
Support for key principles of NHS
There is widespread support for the principles that underpin the NHS, although levels of
support are lower among those who are dissatisfied, compared with those who are satisfied,
with the way the NHS is run.
- 76% think the NHS should definitely be free of charge when you need it and 67% believe it should definitely be available to everyone. 54% think the NHS should definitely be primarily funded through taxes.
- People who are dissatisfied with how the NHS is run are less likely to endorse these principles. 63% of those who are dissatisfied think the NHS should definitely be available to everyone, compared with 75% of those who are satisfied.
- Download chapter