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Patient satisfaction in GPs drops to record low levels as ‘intense pressures’ show



A quarter of patients are dissatisfied with general practice – the lowest level since data was first collected in 1983 – a new analysis of a national survey has claimed.

The King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust’s analysis of the latest 2018 British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey revealed only 63% of people taking part were satisfied with GP services.

But GP leaders have stressed the ‘intense resource and workforce pressures’ facing general practice and noted public satisfaction could have been far lower if it weren’t for the hard work of GPs and their teams.

The overall satisfaction with the NHS as a whole has fallen to its lowest level since 2007 – falling three percentage points to 53% in 2018.

Almost one in four (24%) of those surveyed reported feeling dissatisfied with their GP service, which has doubled since 2009. A total of 13% said they were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with the service.

This year’s survey revealed the main reason people were dissatisifed was due to the long time it takes to get a GP or hospital appointment.

The Nuffield Trust’s director of research and chief economist John Appleby said: ‘Satisfaction with general practice – historically the service people were most satisfied with – has been falling for the past decade and is now at its lowest since the BSA survey began over 30 years ago.’

He acknowledged the ongoing pressures on GPs and warned that proposals in the NHS long-term would place even greater demands on primary care.

He said: ‘This [result] may reflect continued strain on general practice, with mounting workloads and staff shortages and the evidence shows that people are finding it harder to get appointments than before.

‘The NHS long-term plan expects even more of general practice – these problems will need to be addressed quickly if that vision is to be made possible.’

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘GPs and our teams want to provide the best care that we possibly can for our patients, so it’s always disappointing to hear that some people are not always satisfied with the services they are receiving.

‘We know that general practice is currently facing intense resource and workforce pressures, and while GPs are working incredibly hard to combat these, we understand that many patients are still waiting too long to see their doctor – something we find just as frustrating.

She highlighted that NHS England’s most recent GP patient survey found 84% of patients registered at a GP practice rated their overall experience as ‘good’.

She added: ‘This demonstrates the hard work and dedication of GPs and our teams, who are seeing more than a million patients a day across the country. But working under these conditions simply isn’t sustainable for us, or ultimately, our patients.’

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘GPs, hospital doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals are working harder than ever before to treat the ever-rising number of patients, but they are fighting a tide of poor staffing, lack of space and a lack of investment.

‘Given this backdrop the levels of satisfaction could have been lower, and I believe it’s almost certainly the dedication of staff in the NHS that prevents this.’

He added: ‘NHS staff are simply not being given the tools and support to give patients the care they deserve. We need the Government to urgently address this in the immediate term and to also ensure that beyond the long-term plan headlines there is a clear road map that gives the NHS the staff, resources and services it desperately needs.’

Last week, a study showed four in 10 GPs want to leave the profession in next five years, stating work intensity and workload as the main factors for leaving.

The ongoing workforce crisis in GP practices was said to hinder the Government’s plan to move hospital care into practices, a report revealed earlier last month.

Meanwhile, a BMA survey of English GP practices last month found only half of GP practice buildings are fit for purpose.