Cleanliness tops the list of patients' worries about the NHS 60 years on

Monday 30 June 2008

Cleanliness tops the list of patients' worries about the NHS 60 years on

  • Over two thirds are worried about levels of hygiene
  • Over three fifths fear catching an infection whilst in hospital

The British public is seriously concerned about levels of cleanliness and hygiene within NHS facilities, a study by Saga Private Medical Insurance* has revealed. The associated risk of catching a hospital-related infection and hospital waiting times also feature as key NHS worries.

Over two thirds of people (68%) expressed concern about the current hygiene and cleanliness standards in NHS facilities and a similar number (66%) said they feared catching a hospital acquired infection like MRSA. Waiting times are also a big issue, with over half (57%) troubled by the delays.

Top concerns about NHS facilities

1. Cleanliness and hygiene (68%)

2. Catching a hospital acquired infection (66%)

3. Waiting times (57%)

4. Doctors' working hours (42%)

5. Being treated on a mixed ward (36%)

People aged over 50 are the most anxious about hygiene (73%) and risk of infection (76%) whilst the younger generations share these concerns but they are less worried (64% worried about cleanliness and 58% worried about catching MRSA or a similar illness). Women are the most conscious of their social surroundings in hospital, with almost half (44%) unhappy about being treated on a mixed ward compared to less than a third (27%) of men. In fact, by contrast, over a third of men (34%) point out that they are happy to be on such a ward. While quality of treatment features as a worry for almost a third (31%), surprisingly quality of food is of equal concern, highlighting how old stories about bad hospital food are here to stay.

Over two thirds of people (67%) say they have been treated in an NHS facility in the past five years, but a lack of confidence in the institution is driving many to take out private medical insurance (PMI). Almost two fifths (37%) of the public have or are considering taking out a PMI policy. Those in the East and South East of England are the most likely to do this (48%) compared to less than a quarter (24%) in Scotland and in Northern Ireland.

Shorter waiting times are the top reason driving people to take out a PMI policy. Over half (51%) say they are attracted to private hospitals for this reason, with the over 50s keenest to get treated promptly (55% over 50 vs 48% under 50). Unrest about the quality of NHS facilities and medical care is also a factor with four in ten people (41%) thinking facilities will be better in a private hospital and two fifths (39%) thinking the same about treatment and care.

Andrew Goodsell, Chief Executive, Saga Group Ltd, said: "Although the NHS is a world-leading service, many feel more reassured knowing they have private medical cover. Despite the government effort and resource in recent years focussed on reducing waiting times, the reality is that the public still feel they are too long and that's borne out by the continuing strong demand for Private Medical Insurance and access to private treatment in safe and clean environments."

For more information on Saga Private Medical Insurance please visit or call 0800 857 857.


Notes to Editors-

*Analysis carried out by Opinium Research on an online poll of 1,951 British adults between 16th and 19th May 2008.

For further press information please contact the Saga Press Office on: 01303 771529.

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