Satisfaction with the NHS has reached an all-time high, and the positive outlook has been rising steadily for the last decade. Findings from the 2011 NHS outpatient survey, published yesterday, show 84 per cent of patients rated their experience as excellent or very good, the highest level since the survey began in 2002.
Patients said they were better involved in decisions about their care, were treated with respect and dignity and had confidence and trust in healthcare staff.
The results appeared to further undermine Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's case for his controversial NHS reforms, coming on the same day that an online petition calling for the Health and Social Care Bill to be abandoned claimed its 100,000th signature.
That landmark raises the embarrassing possibility for the Government that the petition could be referred to the Commons for official debate.
The public's approval of NHS standards follows a study in the medical journal The Lancet claiming productivity in the NHS has "probably improved" in recent years, contradicting the "myth" that it has worsened as funding has increased – an argument often used in support of the reforms.
Mr Lansley has faced intense criticism over the plans, which seemed to be exacerbating splits within the Coalition Government after the Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes called for him to step down on Sunday. David Cameron has given his public backing to the Health Secretary.
The Care Quality Commission, which carried out the survey of 72,000 patients who attended outpatient departments in April or May 2011, said the findings showed that when key aspects of care were measured, performance improved.
The Department of Health cited research by Imperial College London, which showed that hospitals with better patient ratings tended to have lower death and readmission rates.
The Government received more bad news last night as it was reported that implementation of the reforms could put patient safety at risk, while failing to achieve any cost-saving benefits.