GP services top of poll
Patients rate GP services higher than any other part of the NHS and are increasingly satisfied with the service being offered by their practice.
Research by MORI for the Department of Health reveals patients feel quality of care offered by GPs is improving.
They also believe GPs and practice staff are better explaining their illness and its treatment.
The survey of 1,002 patients, carried out in June/July 2005, revealed the vast majority were satisfied with the time it took to get an appointment.
And the poll concluded GPs 'remain one of the most trusted groups of professionals in Britain'.
The results were published under the Freedom of Information Act this week, but were available to the department in advance of its Your Health, Your Care, Your Say consultation.
This formed the basis of the recent White Paper, which proposes opening up general practice to competition and other measures supposed to improve access.
Yet the MORI poll found access to GPs was ranked only fifth out of seven big issues patients believed the NHS had to improve. Ahead of it came cleanliness of hospitals, waiting time for consultant appointments and A&E waits.
Net satisfaction with GPs, at 72 per cent, also came far ahead of results for walk-in centres (28 per cent) and NHS Direct (25 per cent).
GPs said the Government's policies for primary care were 'baffling' given the positive results of the survey. They said satisfaction would fall as a result of loss of continuity and personal care.
Dr Peter Maksimczyk, a GP in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, said: 'The concern is that if private agencies take over, patients will have access but not familiarity or continuity.'
Dr Anthony Hereward, a GP in Tregorrick, Cornwall, said: 'When you get a fragmentation of services and patients get degraded into being clients, you get a dissatisfaction because people don't have that trust.'
A spokesman for the department said there was 'no contradiction' between the White Paper and the survey findings.
He said: 'While the majority of patients are extremely satisfied with their GP, services do not always respond to the needs of local communities.'