Around 92% of patients say they were confident in and trusted the last GP they saw, while just under nine in every ten said that their overall experience of their GP surgery was ‘good’ or ‘very good’ according to the latest GP Patient Survey.
The annual survey of more than 800,000 GP patients shows satisfaction across the board is overwhelmingly high, but there is no sign of pledged investment relieving pressures on the profession.
Overall satisfaction has fallen 1% on the previous year despite NHS England assurances that the GP Forward View would deliver immediate support.
And continuity of care which is preferred by patients and associated with better outcomes in a host of conditions has suffered with the number of patients reporting they can usually see their preferred GP dropping to 46.2% – down 2.4% on 2016.
While satisfaction with GP access has always been high, there are signs that it is suffering too, despite successive governments pushing since 2013 to roll out seven-day services to all patients by 2019.
The survey shows:
- 73% of patients rate their overall experience of making an appointment as good or very good, a decrease of 1.3% on 2016.
- Three in four patients (76.2%) are satisfied with their GP surgery opening hours, a decrease of 1 percentage point on 2016.
- Three in four patients (75.8%) say their surgery is open at times that are convenient for them, a decrease of 0.2 percentage points from 76.0% since 2016.
It also shows that drives to promote online appointment booking and other services are having an effect, with 36% of patients knowing how to book online – up 3.8%.
Dr Richard Vautrey, acting chair of the BMA’s GP Committee said that the Government was ‘failing to address’ staff and funding shortages meaning patients were unfairly being left to wait.
He said practices were working ‘flat-out’ and these figures ‘reflect the growing impact from the unsustainable pressures facing general practice.’
‘It is unfair on patients across the country that their increasing needs are not being recognised by the government which is failing to address increasing staff shortages and is providing insufficient funding, leaving too many patients waiting longer for the care they need.’
Athough he was reassured to see ‘that patients continue to have a high level of trust in doctors, and satisfaction with the care they receive’.
NHS England’s director of primary care and partner at London’s Hurley Group practices Dr Arvind Madan said the result showed the ‘fantastic jobs’ GPs and practice staff were doing ‘in times of real pressure’.
But he said it showed there was a need to make serious investment.
He added: ‘The findings also reinforce the case for investing in and strengthening primary care. We are just a year into the General Practice Forward View, a five year plan committed to increasing investment in improving services culminating in an extra £2.4 billion a year by 2020/21 to support primary care.’
‘Access to GPs is already expanding with 17 million people now able to get an appointment in the evening and at weekends, and everyone will be able to by March 2019.’
Last year, the Department of Health admitted that unsustainable workload pressures were behind declining satisfaction in general practice highlighted by that year’s survey.