Patient care is set to get worse in the next few years, according to nearly half of NHS staff surveyed in a government poll.

One part of the survey, carried out between November and January this year, found 49 per cent think care will deteriorate, compared with 34 per cent in summer 2009.

A total of more than 5,000 NHS workers were questioned between 2008 and early 2011 about their attitudes to the health service.

Over time, GPs are the most likely to think patient care had worsened recently and would get worse in the next few years, though “other staff views were catching up”, the poll report said.

Around four-fifths of those questioned (79 per cent) between November and January are satisfied with the service the NHS provides for patients in their local area, up from 69 per cent in spring 2008.

But the proportion of staff who think local patient care has improved in the previous 12 months was just 23 per cent, down from the 33 per cent recorded in autumn 2008.

Eighty-nine per cent of NHS staff questioned about the recent winter are proud to work in the NHS but most agree there is waste and inefficiency in the NHS.

Around seven in 10 (72 per cent) agree that giving patients more information would help raise standards of clinical care. But many said frontline services would be damaged by the government’s massive cost cutting.

Only 37 per cent agree that “efficiency savings” will be reinvested in frontline services, as promised by the government - while just three in 10 (31 per cent) think it is possible to increase quality while cutting costs.

Carried out before the government’s “listening exercise” on the NHS reforms, the latest responses also found a “high level of concern” about both the capacity and the skills of GPs to take on a commissioning role.

Just 21 per cent of GPs believe they have the capacity for commissioning, while almost three-quarters (72 per cent) feel the opposite. Only a quarter believe they have the relevant skills, while two-thirds (66 per cent) disagreed.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley insisted: “This survey shows that NHS staff recognise that working smarter and being more productive, efficient and innovative will help improve care for patients.

“If we do nothing, we face a potential funding gap of £20bn in the future. This is why the NHS must change now to address the challenges that lie ahead.

“The vast majority of staff are proud to be part of the NHS and of the service they provide to patients. We want to build on this. We have spent time listening to the views of NHS staff since we published the original white paper last July and since then we have made significant improvements to our plans to modernise the NHS, to ensure a greater focus on quality and results for patients, less bureaucracy and waste and more freedom for doctors, nurses and the wider frontline.”

Shadow health secretary John Healey said: “This is a damning judgment of the government’s handling of the health service by the people who are best placed to see what’s happening in our NHS.

“It not only confirms a loss of confidence in the government’s handling of the NHS, but a clear sense that things are getting worse and that patients are set to suffer.”