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New patient survey 'misleading', BMA claims

By Gareth Iacobucci

The BMA has hit out at the Government's new GP patient survey, claiming that it will mislead patients.

The new GP Patient Experience Survey, which is being posted to patients from today, is posing a host of new questions to patients about their GP practice.

Among the changes, patients will be quizzed on the ease with which they can access GP appointments, which will be used to assess QOF achievement on access.

In addition, the local practice-based patient surveys, carried out as part of the Quality and Outcomes Framework, have been axed, with Ipsos MORI in full charge of the expanded postal survey.

But GP leaders have criticised the changes, claiming they will make it difficult to compare patients' satisfaction with previous years.

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC chair, said: ‘GPs want feedback from patients as it helps them improve the service they offer. However we are very concerned that the changes mean we won't be able to draw any meaningful comparison with previous years' results, so no-one will truly know if the service has improved or got worse.

‘It is also a shame that the government has discontinued the practice-based patient survey which was given to patients immediately after a visit to the practice. This gave very accurate patient feedback about the quality of consultation with the GP or nurse, something the new survey will fail to do.

Dr Buckman added: ‘It can be very difficult trying to remember how you felt about a consultation which took place six months ago. It means the results of the new postal survey may not give the true picture of GP services.'

Other changes to this year's survey for England and Northern Ireland will include questions about surgery waiting times; cleanliness of GP practices; how patients are treated by reception staff; and out-of-hours care.

Patients will also be asked whether they are seeing a preferred doctor, planning of care for patients with long-term conditions plus overall satisfaction with care received.

Despite the BMA's criticism, health minister Ben Bradshaw said the survey would prove a valuable tool.

He said: ‘This new survey with wider questions, will ensure patients can have their say about the issues that matter most to them. Where patients identify areas for improvement, the local NHS will need to respond.'

The survey - which will cost around £8m this year – is to be carried out every quarter for the next three years.

Patients will be asked a number of new questions in the revised patient survey Patients will be asked a number of new questions in the revised patient survey Sample questions from the survey

In the past 6 months, how easy have you found the following?

- Getting through on the phone
- Speaking to a doctor on the phone
- Speaking to a nurse on the phone
- Getting test results on the phone

How clean is your GP surgery or health centre?

In the reception area, can other patients overhear what you say to the receptionist?

How satisfied are you with the hours that your GP surgery or health centre is open?

Would you like your GP surgery or health centre to open at additional times?

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