Patrick Christys: People are sick of the NHS being a sacred cow

Patrick Christys
Patrick Christys

For all the good work it does, there are so many errors

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Public satisfaction with the NHS is at its lowest level since 1997. Just 36% of you are happy with it. In fact, more people in England, Scotland and Wales are now dissatisfied with the NHS than satisfied with it.

I want you to tell me why. What has it been for you? What experiences have happened to you, your family or your friends?

Satisfaction has dropped 17% since 2020 and it has happened across all age ranges, genders, income groups and supporters of different political parties – what I find fascinating is that there was an initial bump in popularity for our health service, wasn’t there? We were outside clapping, people wearing rainbow badges, children in primary schools were told to do artwork thanking our beloved NHS…and then something changed. What happened for you?

The King’s Fund, who conducted this research, said it’s the most astonishing set of results they’ve ever seen – but I’m not so sure it is that astonishing.

I think there are a few obvious factors at play here – the NHS’s total obsession with Covid is the main one for me. As other services were opening up, the NHS was lagging behind. I think people were sick and tired of being misdiagnosed over Zoom calls and when they struggled to get appointments, it made them no longer feel safe. It increased their fear of getting ill. If people feel like the health service isn’t going to help them when they’re at their most vulnerable, then they go off it.

And when people couldn’t see their GPs because they were busy administering vaccines, I think resentment grew.

I think there was a bit of PR disaster from GPs – several of the profession’s key bodies warned that GPs might quit if they were forced to see patients face-to-face. That was absolutely tone deaf and completely misjudged the public mood. It gave the perception that well-paid medical professionals were not doing everything they could to help reduce the patient backlog.

I know there has been a lot of backlash to the NHS crying poverty whilst simultaneously employing diversity officers on 60k. In fact, the NHS’ Chief People officer is on £230,000.

But I suspect that, actually, there is something much deeper going on. More historic. I think most families in the country will have an NHS horror story. For all the good work it does, there are so many errors. So many people made better and then let down with poor care. So many people whose loved ones could have lived – just look at Shrewsbury maternity ward – hundreds of babies left brain damaged and dead.

I think a lot of people were very sceptical about the quality of care they receive in the NHS and now it’s come to a head. People are sick of the NHS being a sacred cow. People don’t like to feel embarrassed, and I think there are a lot of people out there now who feel let down after painting those rainbows on their house, going outside and clapping. They feel embarrassed about clapping for a sacred cow that’s on its last legs.