Satisfaction with the NHS peaked in 2010

6 July 2018
What was claimed

Under the last Labour government, we had the longest sustained period of investment in the NHS since it was founded.

Our verdict

Labour governments from 1997-2010 increased health spending by more each year on average than any party apart from the Conservatives between 1970 and 1974. The longest period of sustained increases in health spending since 1950 was from 1953-1969 under a number of different governments and political parties.

What was claimed

By the end of the last Labour government we had the highest NHS satisfaction levels since it was founded.

Our verdict

Satisfaction with the NHS in Great Britain was 70% in 2010, just after the Coalition government took office, the highest since records began in 1983.

“Under the last Labour government, we had the longest sustained period of investment in the NHS since it was founded and by the end of the period we had the highest satisfaction levels since it was founded.”

BBC Question Time audience member, 5 July 2018


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What did Labour spend on the NHS?

From 1997 to 2010 spending increased in real terms by 6% a year on average, the second highest average under one party in continuous government since 1950. The highest was 6.2% a year averaged under the Conservative government from 1970-1974.

The longest sustained period of increases in public spending on health in the UK was from 1953-1969 (that’s counting from 1950—the earliest figures we have), when a number of Conservative and Labour governments increased the spending on health in real terms every year. The majority of this money, though not all of it, was spent on the NHS.

From 1999 health spending was devolved, and so the UK Labour government was only responsible for spending in England.  

How satisfied are people with the NHS?

The British Social Attitudes Survey has asked the public since 1983 about their satisfaction with the NHS. From 2001-2010 the proportion of people in great Britain surveyed reporting satisfaction with the NHS generally increased to a peak of 70%.

That figure was from the 2010 survey, which took place between June and September, after the Coalition government had taken office. By 2017 satisfaction had fallen to 57%.  

The measure only goes back to 1983, so we can’t say that 70% was the highest satisfaction level since the NHS was founded back in 1948. The survey doesn’t cover Northern Ireland.

The King’s Fund says that  “public satisfaction cannot be interpreted as a straightforward indicator of NHS performance”. It says that “the relatively high levels of satisfaction reported in 2015 in part reflect positive views on the quality and range of services available on the NHS, but also reflect public support for the concept of a publicly run health service free at the point of use and providing a comprehensive range of services.”

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