PATIENTS across south Hampshire have given a huge thumbs-up to the NHS – after weeks of highly-critical headlines about the health service.

The vast majority of patients treated at the area’s hospitals said they would recommend them to friends and family.

Only a very small number said they would advise their nearest and dearest to be treated somewhere else. In contrast to other parts of England, patients were as happy to recommend visiting a casualty department as they were inpatient treatment, on a hospital ward.

Over the winter and spring, waiting times rose at jam-packed A&E departments, including in Southampton, triggering talk of a crisis.

Around 2,000 patients gave their verdict on their treatment at Southampton General Hospital, last month, for the “friends and family” test.

Quizzed about inpatient care, a total of 787 patients said they were “extremely likely” to recommend the hospital and a further 239 said they were “likely” to.

Against that, only 11 said they were “extremely unlikely” to endorse Southampton General, while three were “unlikely” to recommend it.

That gave a score of 69 out of 100, calculated by counting only “extremely likely” as a positive backing, taking away points for both “unlikely” and “extremely unlikely” responses.

Southampton General’s score was marginally higher for its A&E care (71), where 873 patients were “extremely likely” or “likely” to recommend treatment.

Gail Byrne, director of quality at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The majority of our patients are positive about their experience at our hospitals.

“The test also gives us a chance to find out very quickly and simply what patients aren’t happy with, so we can take action and make necessary improvements.”

The Trust had extended the test to include questions on why patients selected their answer and if they would like to comment to on any particular member of staff.

The Royal Hampshire Hospital, in Winchester, also scored highly for both inpatient care (71) and its casualty department (73).

On the Isle of Wight, St Mary’s Hospital, in Newport, was rated highly for inpatient care (70), but lower for accident and emergency (58).

The ‘friends and family’ test results are on the NHS Choices website, allowing the public to compare ratings at hospitals across England – down to ward level.

David Cameron has trumpeted the idea, saying yesterday: “I am determined to give patients a far greater voice within the NHS as a way of highlighting the best and worst of care within our hospitals.”

But the Patients Association questioned whether it would lead to better care, suggesting some patients might “fear retribution” if they gave an honest verdict.