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Three quarters of patients have ‘good’ GP experience, finds NHS Patient Survey

Three quarters of patients have ‘good’ GP experience, finds NHS Patient Survey

Three quarters (73.9%) of patients found their ‘overall experience’ of their GP practice ‘good’, the latest GP Patient Survey has found.

The annual survey, run by Ipsos on behalf of NHS England, also saw 89.9% of patients saying that ‘their needs were met at their last appointment’.

And 92.3% said they ‘had confidence and trust in the healthcare professional’ they saw at their last appointment.

The survey was redeveloped this year to ‘make sure it continues to reflect’ how primary care services ‘are delivered and how patients experience them’, and it is therefore not possible to compare data for 2024 with previous years to monitor trends, the report authors stressed.

Last year the BMA warned that only a ‘massive investment’ in general practice could turn around the lowest patient satisfaction ratings in six years. Results of the 2023 GP Patient Survey found that 71.3% had a ‘good overall experience’ of their GP practice, a slight decrease from 72.4% in 2022 and the lowest level since the 2018 survey.

This year, the survey asked patients about local GP practice services; their last contact with the practice; the quality of care at the last appointment; overall experience of the GP practice; experience when the GP practice is closed; pharmacy services and NHS dentistry; as well as current health circumstances.

According to the survey report, testing of the change in survey design and previous analysis of changes to questions has shown that they ‘create differences in results which are not due to changes in patient experience’ and that as a result, trends ‘cannot be reliably presented this year’.

The report also contains data categorised by areas, and pointed out that the proportion of patients who reported a good overall experience of their GP practice in their last contact ‘varied between ICSs’, ranging from 57.0% to 75.0%, a difference of 18 percentage points.

The survey included new questions on pharmacy and the results showed that 20.9% of patients ‘used a pharmacy to get advice’ and 7.3% ‘used a pharmacy because they were referred’ by their GP practice, NHS 111 or A&E.

The results also showed that 64% of patients were seen face to face at their last appointment at their GP practice.

Headline findings

  • 73,9% said their overall experience of their GP practice was good 
  • 92.3% said they had confidence and trust in the healthcare professional at their last appointment
  • 89.9% said their needs were met at their last appointment
  • 49.7% said it was easy to contact their GP practice on the phone 
  • 47.9% said it was easy to contact their GP practice using their practice website 
  • 44.8% said it was easy to contact their GP practice using the NHS app 
  • 67.3% said their overall experience of contacting their GP practice was good 
  • 12.3% said their call was answered straight away the last time they contacted their practice 
  • 72.1% said they knew the next step in dealing with their request within two days of contacting their practice 
  • 20% of patients waited over a week for an appointment and 12% of waited over two weeks
  • 34% said they waited too long for an appointment

RCGP chair Professor Kamila Hawthorne said that the results make it ‘clear’ that when patients are able to see their GP ‘they are getting the care they need’.

‘But it is also clear that too many patients are waiting too long for an appointment and struggling to access the care and services their practice provides – and many are unclear where to turn if they fall unwell outside of routine hours. GPs are as worried and frustrated as their patients when this happens,’ she added.

She also said that ‘decades of underfunding’ and ‘poor’ workforce planning have left general practice ‘on the brink’. 

She added: ‘The new health secretary has made welcome commitments to support general practice by increasing the share of NHS funding for primary care and boosting the GP workforce, and these results show just how badly we need to review the current NHS workforce plan which would lead to GPs falling as a share of the clinical workforce.

‘General practice is the bedrock of the NHS – when it is properly resourced it alleviates pressures right across the health service, including in Emergency Departments – but it has faced years of neglect.’

An NHS England spokesperson said:  ‘NHS staff have worked incredibly hard to cope with increased demand for patient care, but this survey makes it clear there is much more to do to improve patient’s satisfaction and experience in accessing primary care services.

‘We look forward to working with the Government to tackle the issues that matter most to patients, which includes better supporting patients with long term conditions, improving continuity of care, particularly for those that need it most, and making it easier for people to contact their GP or get an NHS dental appointment.’

Chief executive of National Voices Jacob Lant said the results show there is ‘a lot of work’ to be done to ‘eradicate the significant variations in access’ across different ethnicities, genders, sexualities and geographies.

He said: ‘Patients reporting a good experience of contacting their GP ranged from 57 to 75 per cent across different integrated care systems, with certain ethnic groups and religions finding it particularly difficult (56.3% of Gypsy and Irish travellers reported a good experience contacting their GP, compared to an all patient average of 67.3%, for Bangladeshis it was 54.2%, Sikhs 59.5%).

‘Access is also harder for Disabled people at 63.6% and for those who identify as non-binary 58.8%.

‘Further work must be done to drill down into what access barriers people are facing and this can only be done by engaging with underserved communities and acting on their concerns.’

Healthwatch England’s head of policy and research Will Pett said: ‘While access to GP appointments is the most common issue people contact us about, the challenges facing GP teams are also well reported.

‘Today’s results are a stark reminder of the support and resources staff will need to improve access for people in England.’

Assistant director of policy at the Health Foundation Tim Gardner said: ‘The latest GP Patient Survey shows that while patients’ overall experience of general practice remains positive, too many people are struggling to get through to their practice.

‘The Government’s recent announcement of renewed focus on NHS performance is welcome, but as these data show there is no time for delaying the urgent action that is needed.’