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GPs retain top spot for patient satisfaction

Patients are happier with general practice than any other NHS service, although satisfaction has dipped to its lowest since 2001, new figures have revealed.

Some 71% of patients said they were satisfied with GP services in 2014 compared with 74% in 2013, statistics published by the King’s Fund have shown.

In the 31 years that the NatCen British Social Attitudes Survey has run, this bottom notation for satisfaction with GP services was matched only in 2001, with the all-time high recorded at 83% in 1993 and a more recent peak at 80% in 2009.

However, despite the slide, which the BMA puts down to general practice being ‘under particular stress’, GP services landed the top spot in the new survey ahead of outpatient hospital services, which recorded an all-time satisfaction high with 69%.

Despite much-publicised difficulties in meeting national waiting time standards throughout the year, A&E satisfaction rates grew from 52% to 58% year on year and overall satisfaction with the NHS as a whole increased from 60% to 65% – the second-highest rating ever.

Commenting on the figures, the King’s Fund said this may reflect patients expressing their support for the NHS as an institution, as the poll showed stronger year-on-year satisfaction growth among people who had not had a recent contact with NHS services.

King’s Fund chief economist John Appleby said: ‘Public satisfaction with the NHS is high and has risen significantly, despite a year in which the service hit the headlines for financial pressures and difficulties with A&E waiting times.

‘But as well as an actual increase in satisfaction, this may in part reflect a desire among the public to show support for the NHS as an institution.’

BMA chair Dr Mark Porter welcomed the continued value patients placed on the NHS and the ‘hard work’ of doctors and nurses but warned that the Government ‘should be concerned’ about the fall in GP satisfaction levels.

He said: ‘All parts of the NHS are struggling with ever-increasing patient demand, staff shortages and insufficient resources. Key areas, such as an A&E and GP services, are under particular stress and in some cases are close to breaking point.

‘The satisfaction rates for GP services remain the highest of any other part of the NHS, but any government should be concerned that overall rates are slipping under their watch. GPs are working harder than ever before, but they simply do not have enough staff, funding and suitable facilities to deliver the services and care that all GPs want to see.’

The latest GP Patient Survey results also saw a slight decline in satisfaction, of one percentage point.