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GPs go forth

Patient satisfaction in GPs drops to record low levels as 'intense pressures' show

A quarter of patients are dissatisfied with general practice - the lowest level since data was first collected in 1983 - a new analysis of a national survey has claimed.

The King's Fund and Nuffield Trust's analysis of the latest 2018 British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey revealed only 63% of people taking part were satisfied with GP services.

But GP leaders have stressed the 'intense resource and workforce pressures' facing general practice and noted public satisfaction could have been far lower if it weren't for the hard work of GPs and their teams.

The overall satisfaction with the NHS as a whole has fallen to its lowest level since 2007 - falling three percentage points to 53% in 2018.

Almost one in four (24%) of those surveyed reported feeling dissatisfied with their GP service, which has doubled since 2009. A total of 13% said they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with the service.

This year's survey revealed the main reason people were dissatisifed was due to the long time it takes to get a GP or hospital appointment.

The Nuffield Trust's director of research and chief economist John Appleby said: ‘Satisfaction with general practice – historically the service people were most satisfied with – has been falling for the past decade and is now at its lowest since the BSA survey began over 30 years ago.’

He acknowledged the ongoing pressures on GPs and warned that proposals in the NHS long-term would place even greater demands on primary care.

He said: 'This [result] may reflect continued strain on general practice, with mounting workloads and staff shortages and the evidence shows that people are finding it harder to get appointments than before.

'The NHS long-term plan expects even more of general practice – these problems will need to be addressed quickly if that vision is to be made possible.’

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: 'GPs and our teams want to provide the best care that we possibly can for our patients, so it’s always disappointing to hear that some people are not always satisfied with the services they are receiving.

'We know that general practice is currently facing intense resource and workforce pressures, and while GPs are working incredibly hard to combat these, we understand that many patients are still waiting too long to see their doctor – something we find just as frustrating.

She highlighted that NHS England's most recent GP patient survey found 84% of patients registered at a GP practice rated their overall experience as ‘good’.

She added: ‘This demonstrates the hard work and dedication of GPs and our teams, who are seeing more than a million patients a day across the country. But working under these conditions simply isn’t sustainable for us, or ultimately, our patients.'

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'GPs, hospital doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are working harder than ever before to treat the ever-rising number of patients, but they are fighting a tide of poor staffing, lack of space and a lack of investment.

'Given this backdrop the levels of satisfaction could have been lower, and I believe it’s almost certainly the dedication of staff in the NHS that prevents this.'

He added: 'NHS staff are simply not being given the tools and support to give patients the care they deserve. We need the Government to urgently address this in the immediate term and to also ensure that beyond the long-term plan headlines there is a clear road map that gives the NHS the staff, resources and services it desperately needs.'

Last week, a study showed four in 10 GPs want to leave the profession in next five years, stating work intensity and workload as the main factors for leaving.

The ongoing workforce crisis in GP practices was said to hinder the Government’s plan to move hospital care into practices, a report revealed earlier last month.

Meanwhile, a BMA survey of English GP practices last month found only half of GP practice buildings are fit for purpose.


Readers' comments (16)

  • Vinci Ho

    Nobody should be surprised here . Every matter has its roots and tails and every incident has its beginning and ending.
    The question is whether the government really cares about these declining figures(including those in secondary care)or more precisely, does it know how to care?

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  • Vinci Ho

    The other spin-off from this ‘phenomenon’ is in fact , rises in complaints and litigations . Hence , indemnity goes up . GPs continue to exit the door while young ones see the no-go sign .Fine, the state indemnity comes in for GP . But in front of potentially hefty compensation claim bills , which side will the government and its technocrats stand ? Let GPs hanging out dry is an ‘option’ ?
    The vicious cycle goes around. It traces back to the fact that there are not enough ‘tools’ to work with in primary care: Workforce , Expertise , Time , Space and of course , Funding.
    The government must succumb to humility and face the truth that the system is no longer safe enough . Actions are for now not later .........

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  • They don't care and are either not very bright of frankly callous.Any political who denies a direct link between falling police numbers and rising knife crime must be all of the above.

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  • National Hopeless Service

    They should do a satisfaction survey for staff.....

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  • The satisfaction survey for staff are the vacant jobs and the accelerating retirement rates.This will take more than a 2004 moment or the crappy new contract to arrest. BMA hope you are not as bad at doing the day job as your union duties.

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  • I would suggest that perhaps GP satisfaction with patients is also at record low levels! I left three years ago mainly due to the unrealistic patient expectations and demands.

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  • A tragic unintended (?) consequence of the barrage of regulation and overload. And the effect on the cost of healthcare provision is yet to be fully felt. When the GP / patient relationship breaks down at a population level, one of the most important roles of general practice is lost - to properly and efficiently guide the patient through the NHS.
    In the long run, it’s cheaper and more humane to fund the system sufficiently that GPs have enough time with their patients and know their patients well enough to guide them back into health.

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  • David Banner

    In 5 years time a satisfaction rate of 63% will be a distant fond memory. Primary Care is in terminal decline.

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  • Just wait until loss of continuity really bites.

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  • Where's Optimus?

    However disaatisfied the patient is with everyother part of the NHS
    Ultimately the legacy of Jeremy Hunt is that .. it is the GP whos is the named resposnible gp for all the finger pointing
    General practice is the safety net on whom all patients fall when let down by all other services...
    its extremely frustraing in general practice trying to pick upo all tyhe pieces or make sense of things when there has been no correspondence..
    of course we can magically put it all together in 10 minutes
    Hospital and a+e couldnt find diagnosis
    return to gp
    Social care not available see your GP

    Is it any wonder no one want to be a partner anymore
    when you are the scapegoat for failings everywhere else?

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