The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on public satisfaction with the NHS, as recent data showing that current levels of satisfaction are at an all-time low. In the early stages of the pandemic, the NHS faced unprecedented challenges, with a surge in demand for critical care services and a need to rapidly reorganise services to respond to the outbreak. Despite these challenges, the NHS did manage to continue providing many essential services to patients, while also responding to the pandemic.

In some cases, the pandemic initially led to an increased appreciation for the NHS, with many people recognising the hard work and dedication of NHS staff in responding to the outbreak. In addition, the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines was seen as a significant achievement for the NHS, with many people praising the NHS for its role in the vaccination effort.

However, the pandemic has also exposed some of the existing weaknesses in the NHS, particularly around capacity and access to care. For example, many patients have faced delays in receiving routine care, have had to wait several months for onwards referrals, or have been unable to access care due to the pandemic. This has led to frustration and dissatisfaction among some patients, who feel that the NHS has not been able to provide the treatments they need and that standards of care are yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels.

Medical Negligence Solicitor, Mark Stafford-White explains that there are several reasons behind the falling rates of patient satisfaction with the NHS: “Obviously it is impossible to exaggerate the impact that Covid-19 had on the NHS as a whole but particularly in relation to patients being able to access medical treatment. The NHS is currently facing unprecedented demand for its services and this pressure has resulted in longer waiting times, overstretched staff, and a reduced quality of care, which will inevitably lead to dissatisfaction among patients.”

“Another big issue facing patients in recent years is the lack of continuity in their care pathway, with many patients seeing a different doctor or therapist at each appointment. Unfortunately this means that, especially for chronic conditions, a lot of clinic time is wasted by the need to explain the full history at each appointment rather than seeing a clinician who is already familiar with their condition and previous treatment. This can lead to confusion and frustration over a lack of progress in their medical care.”

“As the NHS emerges from the pandemic, it is important that patients recognise that they are still entitled the same levels of safe, timely, and effective care that they would have previously expected. Where the level of care does not meet the required standard, there is a real risk that this could impact patient safety and result in preventable harm to patients.”