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Gold, incentives and meh

Patients 'less satisfied' with opening hours one year on

By Steve Nowottny

Patient satisfaction with GP opening hours has fallen over the past year - despite the Government's year-long drive for extended opening hours - according to official statistics published today.

The second annual GP Patient Access Survey shows that 82% of patients are satisfied with their practice's current opening hours, down from last year's 84% figure, which was used by the Government to justify a concerted focus on extended opening.

The finding follows months of national media coverage on the extended hours debate, and the Government's public pledge to boost evening and weekend access. But the survey, which was conducted from January to March, predates the Extended Access DES, and does not take account of the recent rise in the number of practices offering extended hours appointments.

However, other questions in the GP Patient Access Survey reveal general improvements in patient satisfaction.

  • 87% of patients reported satisfaction with their ability to get through to their practice on the phone – up from 86% last year.
  • 87% of patients who tried to get an appointment within 48 hours said they were able to do so – up from 86% last year.
  • 77% of patients who wanted to book ahead for an appointment said they were able to do so – up from 75% last year.
  • 88% of patients who wanted an appointment with a particular GP, even if it meant waiting longer, were able to make one – unchanged from 88% last year.

Health minister Ben Bradshaw welcomed the survey's results, which he described as a ‘real measure of success' for GPs offering improved access.

‘The NHS now needs to respond to what this latest data is telling us,' he said. ‘It is clear patients increasingly need access to primary care at more convenient times.'

The BMA said the figures showed that patient satisfaction with access ‘remains consistently and impressively high.'

GPC chair Dr Laurence Buckman said: ‘With nearly two million people taking part in this survey and satisfaction rates so high, GPs are clearly doing a good job for their patients.'

‘We're not perfect and it's also not possible to please everyone all of the time when resources are finite, but it's proof that the vast majority of patients are getting a good service from their GP surgery.'

The Department of Health also confirmed today – as revealed in Pulse last October - that the GP Patient Access Survey will be run quarterly from 2010.

And a separate survey of 7,000 practices, also published today, reveals that 93% of patients who were referred for further treatment disucssed choice of hospital with their GP.

Opening times: patient satisfaction survey will go quarterly Opening times: patient survey will go quarterly

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