Public satisfaction with the National Health Service seems to have stabilised after a record fall in 2011, data from the British Social Attitudes Survey indicate. 

A survey of over 3,000 people by NatCen has revealed that satisfaction with the way the NHS is running was 61% for 2012, marking the third highest level since the survey started in 1983.

This follows a record fall from 70% in 2010 to 58% in 2011, reflecting public concern over planned reforms of the health service in England and government-imposed spending cuts.

The 2012 survey also revealed that satisfaction with hospital A&E departments now stands at 59%, up 5% from last year's figure, while satisfaction with outpatient services (64%), inpatient services (52%), GP services (74%) and dentists (56%) remained largely level with 2011. 

According to the King's Fund, explaining changes in satisfaction with the NHS and its services can be difficult because often there are several factors at play, but part of the explanation that satisfaction has levelled between 2012 and 2011 could be that the actual or perceived quality of NHS care has remained unchanged.

Prof John Appleby, chief economist at The King's Fund, told the BBC the fact satisfaction has remained unchanged means that "the fall in 2011 was not a blip and that the ground lost may take some time to recover".

Going further

Commenting on the findings, health minister Dan Poulter, stressed: "We want all patients to get excellent care from the NHS. Satisfaction levels are the third highest on record but we want to go further".

"Already referral to treatment times are down, infections like MRSA and c-Difficile are down and the number of clinical staff is up" he said, and pointed to the introduction of a friends and family test "which will give detailed feedback on whether staff and patients think their hospital is providing good care", as well as the "legal duty to be honest about mistakes, Ofsted-style ratings for hospitals, new training requirements for nurses and a new chief inspector of hospitals and care homes" to help drive up standards.