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70% of patients happy with GP out-of-hours services

A major survey has revealed that seven in ten patients are happy with current GP out-of-hours provision and only 14% rate it as poor, despite Government claims that poor GP out-of-hours provision is behind unsustainable pressure on A&E departments in England.

The Ipsos Mori poll of almost 1 million patients contradicts health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s comments that ‘poor primary care alternatives’ were contributing to the ‘huge pressure’ on the emergency services, which doctors’ leaders claimed were ‘nonsense’.

The findings also reveal that patients are satisfied with access to GPs, with 76% of respondents saying they were able to get convenient appointment times.

But it is the figures on GP out-of-hours provision that will have the greatest impact, with NHS England stressing it will be taking the results into account. The survey found that 72% of the 111,888 patients who answered the question on their overall experience of out-of-hours GP services said it was either ‘very good’ or ‘fairly good’. Furthermore, 80% of respondents said it was ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ easy to contact their out-of-hours service.

On the issue of opening hours, around 70% of patients said it would be convenient to them if their practice was open after 6.30pm or on Saturdays, but 80% stated that they were satisfied with the current opening hours of their practice.

Like last year, less than a third of patients said online appointment booking would be their preferred option, although the percentage increased slightly from 29% to 31%.

On the whole, the survey showed satisfaction levels with GP services in general across England were largely sustained from the previous year, with 87% of patients rating their GP practice highly compared with 88% last year.

The survey also found that 93% of patients have confidence in the latest GP they saw.

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the results showed the real picture around patients’ experience of out-of-hours services. He said: ‘I think one of the problems is that politicians and mainstream media are very good at talking down the service that GPs and out-of-hours services are providing when in fact in large parts of the country there is a very good service that GPs are trying to provide to their patients. I think we should recognise that and listen to what patients are saying.’

Dr Vautrey added that the results around GPs’ opening hours was ‘a hugely positive vote from patients’. He said: ‘The fact that despite all the pressures that GP practices are under patients continue to be very appreciative of what practices are offering and we really should be hearing more from our politicians about the work that GPs are doing.’

‘It is normal that patients would want more of a good thing, but that comes at a price, a financial cost and also there is the professional difficulty of doing more and that is why we want more GPs and more resource to go into general practice.’

NHS England head of primary care commissioning Dr David Geddes said: ‘The GP patient survey highlights where patients are satisfied with the service they receive, but also helps us identify areas where we could do better and where NHS England along with CCG leaders need to focus.  We will be looking at the results of this survey and working with our area teams to ensure issues that are important for our patients are addressed.’

‘The GP survey gives us insight into patient feedback on GP services in and out of hours and this will form an important part  of our work to modernise and develop the contribution that general practice can make to the NHS going forward.’

The data included was collected in two waves during July to September 2012 and January to March 2013.

Readers' comments (13)

  • Dear Daily Mail............................

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  • Anyone who thinks that this will make a difference is totally deluded.

    There is a political agenda, and the facts are totally irrelevant here. Mr Hunt and pals will pursue their plan regardless...

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  • @Anonymous | 13 June 2013 5:25pm

    Here here! We've had our gonads well and truly ripped off and they ain't growing back

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  • A large contributor to the the A&E problems are insufficient in-hours GP availability, not OOH availability, which whatever the views on the quality of the services in OOH lack of access is certainly not a problem then, as all comers are seen unlike the in-hours period.
    When patients can't access a GP in-hours for their perceived urgent need they then overspill into day time urgent care, walk in centres or A&E. Currently often at little or no cost to the in-hours GP's, so what incentives do they have to increase their capacity to deal with the urgent demand from their patients? If someone else would do your work at little or no cost, wouldn't you let them?

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  • Harry Longman

    I'm unimpressed with this kind of survey. You have a battle with other providers, eg 111 saying that 80 something % of patients were satisfied. The answer to anything is about 80% and it tells us nothing. 80% of cats prefer food and so on. What we need is operational measures which tell us how well a system is performing. Example: what is the median time for a patient phoning OOH to speak to a clinician? Compare that between providers, and with 111. What are the dispositions by %? What is the median time to resolve a patient's problem?

    By using existing data, these could be very low cost to produce compared with the time and effort in running surveys.

    Must do better at data capture and analysis.

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  • I'm going to start sending anything that is an accident or emergency to A+E to give me room to see all thoses GP issues that are in A+E.
    Anon 11.06 - practices have no capacity to do more with falling income to staff it..

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  • The reasons for lack of capacity and falling income is another matter, but to deny that lack of in hours GP urgent access is a big part of the system wide problem is unhelpful. To openly state that it is a problem and then fight/negotiate your corner to improve it is the start of the solution.
    And, of course, the big elephant in the room that no one has the stomach to address is that a main reason for a lack of GP appointments is often not that enough appointments aren't made available, it is inappropriate use of those appointments by many patients.

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  • Wherever you have a free at point of delivery service you'll have uncontrollable demand.Imagine what happens to a piston engine rpm without the connecting rod.But that is the issue that no politician wants to discuss.Blame it on anyone or anything else except a flawed socialist ideology.I bet the majority of those attending are benefit claimants because they're the only group that benefits whilst the service user who is least likely to use the service i.e the taxpayer gets clobbered.

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  • I'm an EM doctor in a busy London Hospital. I see my fair share of primary care problems that broadly fit into four categories:

    1. 'the surgery said I would have to wait 2 weeks for an appointment'

    2. Unnecessary GP referral, which are on the whole discharged after history/examination

    3. 'I don't feel well, the GP can't help me, I need tests, and they don't take me seriously' this applies to a lot of young people

    4. 111 told me to come to ED

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  • Dr Patel
    I was a casualty officer 20 years ago and had the same issues then:

    1. 'the surgery said I would have to wait 2 weeks for an appointment'
    -Patient demand not need. Most of us see urgents all day that demand it and who could wait for an appointment. That's why theres a 2 week wait for appointments
    2. Unnecessary GP referral, which are on the whole discharged after history/examination
    -Occurs to all of us occasionally but if recurrent the CCG need to tackle this.
    3. 'I don't feel well, the GP can't help me, I need tests, and they don't take me seriously' this applies to a lot of young people.
    -Needy unrealistic expectation of what can be done, it will be the same patient doing this again and again or the same dr- either way it needs challenging

    4. 111 told me to come to ED
    Patients lie or the system isn't good enough to cope with uncertainty.

    Good luck and if you get to see it from our side you'll see we are flat out coping with demand.

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