‘Heartbreaking’: Shocking decline in public satisfaction with NHS under Tories

'The NHS isn't failing, it's being failed. What an appalling act of state vandalism’

Save our NHS campaign

Public satisfaction with the NHS is at its lowest ever level, plunging for the first time in the 41-year history of the survey to show less than a quarter of people are satisfied with the way the health service is currently running. 

Compared to 2010 when 70% of the public were satisfied with the NHS, the latest survey findings lay bare what 14 years of a Tory government stripping funds and resources from the NHS has had. 

Campaign group Keep Our NHS Public has called it “an appalling act of state vandalism” commenting that the NHS “isn’t failing, it’s being failed”. 

NHS workers have expressed heartbreak over the shocking decline in public satisfaction for the service under the Tories while unions have called for immediate action to address the staffing crisis.

One palliative care doctor wrote on X: “14 years of Tory government understaffing, underfunding & private sector outsourcing have trashed the NHS into a travesty of the service we want to give you.

“It is heartbreaking & so disgustingly wrong.”

A NHS Medical consultant and health policy editor wrote: “The public are right to be dissatisfied with the NHS right now. It’s a shadow of its former self. Staff are completely wiped out. There isn’t enough space to treat patients. Roofs are falling down. And the govt solution is to bung their mates in AI and tech a few billion quid.”

Since 2020 satisfaction has fallen by 29%, with waiting times and staff shortages the biggest concerns, while the public was least satisfied with A&E and dentistry.

Pat Cullen, leader of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said nurses would respond to the survey with mixed emotions of both ‘sorrow’ and ‘hope’ – hope that the public shares their view that ‘enough is enough’.

Making care services and the NHS the central issue of the general election is what voters must now do, Cullen urged. 

“It did not have to be this way and it did not start with the pandemic either,” the general secretary responded. “An NHS that was once a world-leader is now treating patients in corridors, doorways, and store cupboards.”

“Nurses are exhausting themselves caring for unsafe numbers of patients at a time as they are short of tens of thousands of colleagues. The status quo has become professionally intolerable for many.”

Support for the fundamental principles of the NHS remain extremely high, with 91% of people believing it should remain free of charge when people need it, and 82% said it should be funded primarily from taxation and available to everyone, regardless of income. 

The UK’s largest union Unison blamed the government for patient suffering and called on ministers to hold immediate pay talks for health workers, in order to address the NHS staffing crisis. 

“The NHS cannot provide the quality care people need until the staffing crisis is addressed. Patients are suffering because of government inaction,” said Unison’s head of health Helga Pile. 

“Low pay and burnout are to blame for nurses, paramedics and other health workers quitting the service. When the minimum wage increases next week, the lowest paid NHS staff will only be earning one pence an hour above the legal minimum.

“It’s not surprising they’re leaving for jobs elsewhere when supermarkets are paying much better hourly rates.”

This chart by the Kings Fund highlights just how steep the depressing fall in public satisfaction with the NHS has been under the Tories, and how it compares to public sentiment since 1983.

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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