Reviving NHS Patient Satisfaction thumbnail image Published on 13th February 2024 by Dr. Cynthia Bodea MSc Public Health

The latest NHS public satisfaction survey released in March of 2023 revealed a startling trend – a significant drop in overall satisfaction by 29%[1]. This drop brings the total satisfaction from 70% in 2010 to an egregious 41%. This alarming decline highlights the ongoing struggle of the NHS to satisfy the health demands of the public with the results being lower than it has ever been in 41 years. In addition, the most recent GP patient satisfaction survey also disclosed a steady decrease in satisfaction from 83% in 2021 to 71.3% in 2023, the lowest it has been in five years[2], citing the main cause of dissatisfaction as patients having difficulties accessing their GPs[3].

 

Understanding the Numbers:

 

These numbers are not mere percentages but reflections of lived experiences and concerns of countless individuals who have sought medical attention from the NHS. The plunge in both the public’s and patients’ satisfaction with the NHS is not just a statistical anomaly; it represents a substantial shift in the public’s view of our health system.

 

What are the main causes of patient dissatisfaction?

 

  • Patients are unhappy with the ongoing GP closures
  • Patients are unhappy with the difficulty in booking appointments, along with long wait times

 

Why has the numbers dwindled? And our two cents on the issue.

 

There are a number of reasons why the public is unhappy with the current state of the NHS but we will limit it to the most common cause of the overall dissatisfaction with the GP practices which often stems from situations out of their control such as underfunding, staff shortages, increasing burn out and more.

 

Underfunding: Budgetary constraints and persistent underfunding have plagued the NHS for years. Producing cascading effects ranging from unhappy and underpaid staff to increasing GP practice closures with recent data showing two GP clinics close every week in the UK. Further research links these closures as cause for the lowered patient satisfaction as long waiting times are further compounded[4]. Increasing investment in these practices can alleviate resource constraints and prevent further closures which will in turn reduce waiting times, with the majority of complaints stemming from prolonged waiting and the perceived difficulty of appointment booking this is sure to enhance overall patient experiences.

 

The decline in overall well-being of Healthcare Professionals: Addressing staff burnout and low morale caused by overworking and under-compensation has proven to be crucial as this has played a large role in poor retention and shortages of staff, and in turn has affected how these professionals relate to their patients. Providing mental health support, encouraging time-off, and ensuring manageable workloads cost-efficiently by outsourcing some administrative tasks and absence covers are requisite to improving the overall welfare of health professionals and allowing them to regain their vitality.

 

Lack of patient-centric customer service: The experience of patients begins from the first contact, the impression of which lingers for the entire duration of the care process. Long holding and waiting times impact patients’ satisfaction which then reflects on how they interact with GP receptionists, with studies showing increased levels of hostility and verbal abuse towards them (GP receptionist)[5]. When patients feel catered to, their opinion of the practice improves and it naturally affects their overall view of the healthcare system. Outsourcing services from customer-centric reputable companies to decrease call holding times can contribute to improving patient satisfaction.

 

Patient satisfaction surveys play a significant role in assessing and improving the standard of healthcare services. These surveys provide valuable insights into the experiences, preferences, and concerns of patients, contributing to the enhancement of overall healthcare delivery in the UK and should be a practice’s utmost priority.

 

Addressing the underlying issues from funding and resource allocation to staff support and customer service may have its hurdles, but is paramount. The goal should be to take all the necessary steps to restore the public’s confidence in the NHS and strive towards providing high-quality healthcare services for all.

 

Click here for more info on how our customer-centric services have helped practices improve their patient satisfaction.

 

 

References

 

 

1 Nuffield trust, (2023). https://www.nuffieldtrust.org.uk/news-item/british-social-attitudes-satisfaction-with-the-nhs-falls-to-the-lowest-level-ever-recorded

 

2 Gponline, (2023). https://www.gponline.com/patient-satisfaction-gps-varies-two-fold-pcns/article/1795041

 

3 Healthwatch Haringey, (2023). https://www.healthwatchharingey.org.uk/news/2023-07-17/gp-patient-survey-2023-results-show-further-reduced-access-gps

 

4 Iacobucci, G. (2023). GP clinic closures are linked to lower patient satisfaction at remaining practices, study finds.

 

5 Pulse, (2023). https://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/news/workforce/aggression-towards-gp-receptionists-is-serious-workplace-safety-concern-researchers-say/#:~:text=All%20the%20studies%20looked%20at,sexist%20insults%20and%20name%20calling