The proportion of patients having an overall ‘good’ experience of their GP practice has decreased by over 10 percentage points, dropping from 83% in 2021 to 72% in 2022.
The NHS’s latest GP patient survey revealed the figures, published this month but covering January to April 2022, showing that patient satisfaction levels have decreased since the height of the pandemic.
The figures also showed a further 10% percentage point decline in patients who were ‘satisfied with the appointment offered, and accepted it’ – down to 72% in 2022 from 82% in 2021.
Chair of Gateshead and South Tyneside LMC and GP Dr Paul Evans told Pulse the results were ‘somewhat puzzling’, given that ‘only yesterday, a rise in general practice appointments was being cited as one of the reasons behind the surprising economic growth seen in the last couple of months’.
He said: ‘It is also surprising given that we know that the overall volume of appointments has gone up, with a smaller workforce. I suspect this largely reflects patient’s frustrations, as GPs are not able to accelerate their hospital care, or indeed manage their conditions in primary care. And there may be an element of displacement, possibly also fed by the media.’
He added: ‘At the coalface, we’re seeing patients complain about their GPs, but the underlying issue is that their overall care is rubbish, and they tend to blame the GPs for the fact they can’t access physiotherapy in a timely fashion, or their hip replacement has been pending for 18 months now.
‘They complain about the GPs because they go to the GP saying, “can’t you can’t you do something here?” And the GP has to say, “No, actually, I’m at the end of the line here.”‘
A total of 56% said they had a ‘good experience of making an appointment’, compared with 71% in 2021 and 66% in 2020 – and with 53% agreeing they found it ‘easy to get through to their practice by phone’.
The annual survey, conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of NHS England since 2007, polled 720,000 patients in England.
The survey also revealed that:
- 49% of patients received a phone appointment when they last tried to make an appointment, up from 47% in 2021
- 46% were seen in person, down from 48% in 2021
- 2% had an online appointment, down from 3% in 2021
- 3% were seen at another practice location, the same as last year
- 0.5% had a home visit, the same as last year
- 51% saw or spoke to someone ‘at a time they wanted to or sooner’, down from 59% in 2021
- 93% said they ‘have confidence and trust in the healthcare professional they saw’, down from 96% in 2021
- More than four in five said ‘their needs were met at their last appointment’
Another survey in March 2022 also found that patient satisfaction with GP services has taken a 30 percentage-point dive since before the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics said yesterday that a ‘large rise in GP appointments’ was a main contributor to UK economic growth in May.
Responding to the GP patient survey results, BMA England GP committee chair Dr Farah Jameel said: ‘It’s only right that patients expect and deserve high-quality, timely care whenever they interact with their GP practice, and we share their frustration when this doesn’t happen.
‘We too feel dissatisfied after years of under-investment, ever increasing workload, and a Government who has not been listening to us.’
She added: ‘The fall in patient satisfaction with making an appointment is a stark reflection of the capacity shortfall that general practice is facing.’
RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said: ‘It’s never easy to hear patients reporting unsatisfactory experiences of receiving general practice care, or that they are having difficulties accessing our services.’
He said the findings ‘reflect an over-stretched service, with GPs and our teams doing our best for patients under intense workload and workforce pressures’.
Also responding to the results, senior fellow at the King’s Fund think tank Beccy Baird, said GPs are working ‘harder than ever before’.
She said: ‘For many of us, general practice is the front door to the NHS – these results show that patients are finding that door increasingly hard to push open.’
She added: ‘Many of the challenges patients face accessing their GP stem from the chronic staff shortages that have plagued services for years. Practices can’t recruit enough GPs, nurses or other professionals to meet the rising levels of need, because in many cases those staff simply don’t exist.
‘There has been a failure of successive governments to adequately plan and invest in the future NHS workforce, a failure that has left GPs and patients to pick up the pieces.’