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GP practice experience rated ‘good’ but many patients still struggle with appointments, survey reveals


By Lea Legraien and Valeria Fiore
11 July 2019

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Most patients continue to have an overall positive experience of their GP practice but more patients than ever are finding it difficult to contact their surgery and get the appointment they want, an NHS national report has found.

This year’s NHS England GP Survey, completed by 770,512 patients in England, showed 83% of patients reported having a ‘good’ overall experience at their GP practice this year – similar to the 84% last year.

The survey also found that there was ‘considerable variation’ across CCGs for patients reporting a ‘good’ experience of their GP practice – ranging from 69.1% to 92.1%.

Meanwhile 96% of patients had trust and confidence in the healthcare professional they talked to or saw during their last GP appointment – the same proportion as in 2018.

Fewer patients however reported a good experience of making an appointment, with the percentage falling from 69% in 2018 to 67% this year, and 68% were satisfied with the appointment slots made available to them.

This year’s survey also showed a continued fall in the number of patients who find it easy to get in touch with their GP practice, with 68% saying it was easy to get through to someone on the phone. This compares with 70% in 2018 and 81% in 2012.

The new GP patient survey also found that four in 10 patients did not manage to see or speak to a healthcare professional when they wanted or sooner, a 1% drop compared to last year.

Two in five patients, 42%, wanted to get a same day appointment the last time they had tried to book one, the survey revealed, and they were more likely to request this when it was for children under 16.

In addition, around three in 10 patients argued it was ‘not easy’ to get through to someone at their surgery on the phone.

NHS England noted that GPs continue to face pressure and increasing demand and said it would be launching a review of access to general practice across England this year.

Dr Nikita Kanani, acting director of primary care for NHS England, said: ‘Family doctors in England see nearly one million people every day and this survey shows they appreciate the fantastic job they do alongside other practice staff such as nurses and pharmacists.’

She added: ‘We will look at making improvements to pre-bookable and same day GP appointments, reviewing patient feedback on face-to-face and online consultations, delivering greater choice and access to appropriate care for patients.’

GP leaders have previously warned of the ‘intense resource and workforce pressures’ facing general practice after analysis by healthcare think tanks found public satisfaction with the NHS was at its lowest since 2007. They said satisfaction could have been far lower if it weren’t for the hard work of GPs and their teams.

Commenting on the GP survey findings, Dan Wellings, senior fellow at The King’s Fund said that the Government’s boost to general practice funding and the creation of primary care networks could help address the issues raised by the survey only if ‘improving access and maintaining continuity of care’ are prioritised.

Key findings from the NHS England GP patient survey

  • 83% of patients said they had a good experience of their GP practice
  • 69% found it easy to reach their practice through the phone
  • 68% described their overall experience of booking an appointment as good
  • 68% were satisfied with the appointment slots made available to them 

 

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