January 30, 2015

The satisfaction paradox and the need for a dose of realism

A paradox is a "situation that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible". This is exactly what is happening to satisfaction with health services in times of economic recession. Everybody would think that less budget damages satisfaction perception. What's going on is exactly the opposite. Satisfaction with health services is increasing (from 79% of people satisfied with the public system in 2006 to 88% in 2013). And this is also happening in the UK, John Appleby et al. from King's Fund say:
Overall public satisfaction with the NHS increased to 65 per cent in 2014 – the second highest level since the British Social Attitudes survey began in 1983. Dissatisfaction with the service fell to an all-time low of 15 per cent.
One interpretation of the increase in overall satisfaction for the NHS is that it is likely to reflect a vote of support for the NHS as an institution in difficult times. A lack of objective improvement in NHS services and the fact that improvements in satisfaction appear to have been driven by an 11 percentage point increase in satisfaction among Labour supporters and those without recent contact with the service, may lend weight to this analysis. This may especially be the case given that some see the NHS as currently under threat, for example from privatisation, and some feel ministers and others have been too critical of the NHS and its staff.
Official measures of performance tell a different story: NHS funding has been under increasing pressure since 2010 and there have been well-publicised performance problems with high-profile targets such as the 4-hour A&E waiting time standard and the 18-week maximum wait from referral to treatment. At the same time, the media has featured negative stories about the financial position of NHS hospitals and the need for additional investment in the service.
This context suggests a possible alternative explanation for the increase in satisfaction in 2014. We know that what drives changes in satisfaction is not straightforward – and almost certainly is never simply satisfaction with the NHS per se, for all respondents to the survey. Political beliefs, attitudes towards the government of the day, media stories and expectations of the NHS will shape people’s satisfaction.
So, while satisfaction improved in 2014, this is not necessarily synonymous with an improvement in the actual performance of the NHS, nor does it simply reflect an actual improvement in satisfaction. Nevertheless, it is clear that public satisfaction with the NHS and support for it as an institution remains high.
I suggest you have a look at the report. Satisfaction is a different dimension from performance, good point. If overall performance is based on healthy life expectancy, then the conclusion for us would be the same. We have increased healthy life expectancy all these years.

Those that complain about austerity want to forget such results. Also journalists. They don't figure out that the issue is a balanced budget and cutbacks have not been applied on an ideological foundation as some pretend. Anybody can blame over budget cuts, but immediately they would have to understand what they would do at home if their income is 7 years less than  before (2013 GDP per capita is less than those in 2006!!!). For sure they would return to an expenditure level simliar to previously,  in one way or another. Can anyone defend that these are ideological budget cuts at home?.
You can't live permanently in increasing debt, I'm satiated of cheap populism. A dose of realism is required.

PS. As you may notice, realism begins after reading the data, but you have to read them.