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Fall in public satisfaction with the NHS

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Satisfaction with the NHS has fallen and the proportion of people who want to see more public spending has increased for the first time in nearly a decade, a study revealed today.

Since the government began a programme of health reforms, the proportion of Britons satisfied with the health service has fallen from an all-time high of 70% in 2010 to 58% in 2011, according to the British Social Attitudes report by NatCen Social Research.

And for the first time in nearly a decade the proportion of people who want more public spending, even if it means higher taxes, has increased from 31% to 36% between 2010 and 2011, the report showed.

More than half (55%) want spending to remain the same.

In addition, more than two thirds (68%) chose health as their priority for more government spending.

The government’s pledge to get on top of welfare spending is going down well with voters.

In 2001, nearly nine out of 10 people (88%) agreed that the government should be mainly responsible for ensuring unemployed people have enough to live on. Just over half (59%) think that now.

The proportion who think the government is responsible for ensuring retired people have enough to live on has fallen from 62% to 52% between 2001 and 2010.

In contrast to the recession of the early Nineties, support for welfare provision has continued to fall as the economic slump goes on.

More than half (54%) now believe that more people would stand on their own feet if benefits were less generous - compared with just over a quarter (26%) in 1991.

Just over a quarter (28%) of people want to see more spending on benefits now, a decrease from nearly six in 10 (58%) in 1991.

The early Nineties recession brought about concerns that benefits were too low and caused hardship, with 55% of people thinking this in 1993. That contrasts with 19% who think the same today, the study showed.

In addition, the proportion of people who wanted to see more spending on benefits for the disabled has gradually fallen from 74% in 1998 to 63% and 53% by 2011.

Penny Young, chief executive of NatCen Social Research, comments: “These findings uncover tough challenges ahead for the coalition government. Less than half way through the Parliament, there is already concern about cuts and their effect on public services.

“However, more encouragingly for ministers, there is clear support for welfare and immigration reform - two areas we are already seeing emerge as key battlegrounds for the next general election.”

The 2011 survey was the 29th British Social Attitudes report and researchers carried out 3,311 interviews with a representative, random sample of adults in Britain.

Health minister Lord Howe said: “We have made rooting out poor performance a priority. The Care Quality Commission is currently carrying out the biggest ever programme of unannounced inspections - some of which are specifically focused on patients being cared for with dignity.

“Our latest survey of over 70,000 patients shows that an overwhelming majority - 92% - say that their overall experience of the NHS was good, very good or excellent.

“The British Social Attitudes Survey targets the general public rather than targeting people that have actually used the NHS, so responses are influenced by other factors - by its nature it is not as accurate a picture as the data from patients. Our own polling of the general public, undertaken independently by MORI, shows that satisfaction with the NHS is broadly stable at around 70% over a similar time period.”


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