Our latest report, Patient experience before the omicron wave: the storm before the storm, paints a bleak picture of what it means to be a patient in the UK.

The report is based on information gathered from more than 1,000 patients in a survey carried out over a month just before Christmas 2021, just before the omicron wave hit the UK.

Our findings show not only how difficult patients found it to access care, and how pressures affecting the NHS compromised their care: but they also show that patients whose illness or care needs seriously affect their day-to-day lives have been affected more than other people.

Our report covers:

  • Patient experience, patient confidence
  • Access to services
  • Remote healthcare
  • Delays and cancellations
  • NHS 111
  • Vaccinations.

We conclude that the disruption to health and care services caused by the pandemic must now be understood as profound and long-term. Many of those who took part in our survey reported their needs are not being met well, or at all.

We also found that confidence about recovery from the pandemic is extremely low, with two thirds of respondents indicating they are not very or not at all confident that the health and care system will be able to recover to deliver high quality care and treatment.


Based on the findings, we make the following recommendations.

  1. The NHS must recognise the extent of patient difficulties, understand them, and make a concerted effort to find out patients’ concerns.
  2. The NHS must reconnect with patients as we come out of the pandemic and work in partnership with them to rebuild the relationship and, together, redesign services.
  3. Health leaders must remove barriers in the health system that stand in the way of health professionals and patients working in a shared way. Leaders should champion a culture change that fosters patient partnership and shared decision making, as well as leading by example. 
  4. The NHS must put in place arrangements to communicate with patients about their wait, how to keep healthy and well, and where they can get support while they wait. All NHS organisations should be using the communications guidelines developed last May on how to keep patients up to date with what is happening with their care.
  5. If the NHS expects people to use NHS 111, then it must look into the variation in standards of service exposed by the survey and take steps to remedy the problems.
  6. A post-pandemic recovery plan is needed that covers all aspects of healthcare and includes community and social care. Such a plan must also include a long-term workforce strategy to ensure we have enough doctors and nurses to deliver the additional care needed to address the backlog of patients waiting for treatment.

The full report, plus details of the methodology, sample, full results tables for all questions are available online.

Full report

Executive summary

Methodology and results

Visual snapshot of our data