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Public satisfaction with GP services drops to lowest level ever recorded

Public satisfaction with GP services in Great Britain has dropped significantly in the last year, to the lowest level on record.

The National Centre for Social Research’s British Social Attitudes survey saw a seven percentage point decline in the proportion of people who are satisfied with GP services.

The survey, of over 3,000 adults in England Scotland and Wales, found that only 65% were satisfied with GP services in 2017, compared with 72% in 2016.

This is the ‘lowest level of satisfaction with GP services since the survey began in 1983 and the first time that general practice has not been the highest rated service’, the report said.

The percentage of people who were dissatisfied with GP services reached an all-time high, jumping by six percentage points to 23%.

The research, carried out by the Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund think tanks, also revealed a six percentage point drop in public satisfaction with the NHS as a whole.

The four main causes of dissatisfaction were staff shortages, long waiting times, lack of funding and government reforms.

The top four causes of satisfaction were quality of care, attitudes and behaviour of NHS staff, the range of services and treatments on offer and that the NHS is free at the point of delivery.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said the results were ‘symptomatic of the inevitable effects of a decade of underinvestment in our family doctor service – and just not having enough GPs in the system to meet demand’.

She added: ‘This is extremely distressing news for hard-pressed GPs and their teams who are working flat-out to do the very best they can for their patients in increasingly difficult circumstances.’

King’s Fund fellow Ruth Robertson said the slump in general practice satisfaction was ‘striking’.

She said: ‘This reflects the huge pressure on general practices, which are struggling to meet growing demand and recruit enough GPs. Given this context, it’s not surprising that public satisfaction with general practice has been in steady decline since 2010.

‘Most of the respondents or their family members will have visited the GP in the last year, so the GP satisfaction indicator offers us a rich insight into how people have found their hands-on experience with the NHS and how that compares to previous years and decades.’

Nuffield Trust chief economist and director of research Professor John Appleby said: ‘Despite mounting pressure on the NHS, satisfaction in the health service has remained high in recent years, with satisfaction staying above 60% for most of this decade.

‘In the last year, however, the tide has started to turn. The drop in satisfaction and rise in dissatisfaction this year suggest that the public are worried about the NHS.’

Public satisfaction with health and care services, 2017

General practice – 65% (down by six percentage points since 2016)

Outpatients – 65% (unchanged)

Inpatients – 55% (down by five percentage points)

A&E – 52% (unchanged)

Dentistry – 57% (unchanged)

Social care – 23% (unchanged, but dissatisfaction increased by six percentage points to 41%)

NatCen quizzed 3,004 adults in England, Scotland and Wales about their satisfaction with the NHS overall and asked 1,002 about individual NHS and social care services.