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Patient survey results show GPs face uphill struggle to meet access targets

By Gareth Iacobucci

GPs' performance against two key access targets which cost them millions last year has fallen in the past six months, according to the latest results from the Government's controversial patient survey.

In the results for the first two quarters of 2009/10, 81% of people who tried to get an appointment with a GP in 48 hours reported they were able to do so, down slightly from 84% for last year.

The majority of those who tried to book ahead (72%) were able to get an appointment more than two full weekdays in advance, but this also dipped slightly from the 76% last year.

Overall, 91% of patients said they were satisfied with the care they received, the same percentage as in last year's survey.

The survey led to significant financial losses for many practices last year, with the GPC facing criticism from some quarters for agreeing to tougher QOF payment thresholds for the survey, which emerged as a key reason for practices losing as much as £25,000.

The financial implications of the latest results are as yet unclear, as they are in part dependent on GPs' ability to vaccinate 50.7% of at risk patients against swine flu, in order to qualify for reduced thresholds on QOF access targets.

The DH has promised to lower the thresholds on this year's PE7 and PE8 QOF indicators by 10 and 20% respectively in practices that do reach the target.

Elsewhere in the survey, 68% of patients said they found it easy to get through to their practice on the phone and 93% found their surgery's receptionists helpful, while 98% said their surgery was clean.

Patient survey Key results

- 75% of patients who wanted to book an appointment with a particular doctor at their GP surgery said they were able to do so all of the time or a lot of the time. (down from 77% last year)

- 81% of patients responded that they were either very satisfied or fairly satisfied with the hours their GP surgery was open. (down from 82%)

- 91% of patients reported that they were either very satisfied or fairly satisfied with the overall care they receive at their surgery (no change)

- 84% of people with a long-term condition said they have had a care planning discussion, (up from 74%), 88% said their care has improved as a result of the care planning process (up from 61%).

- 65% of patients say they would know how to contact an out-of-hours GP service if they needed to, when their surgery was closed. (down from 67%)

- 66% of patients rate the care they received from the out-of-hours service as good and 13% as poor (no change)


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