Patient satisfaction levels with GP practices slipped slightly last year while problems in getting appointments increased significantly, according to the findings of a major survey.
GP leaders said primary care teams had made “incredible efforts” to maintain standards of care in the face of growing demands.
The English national GP Patient Survey found that 82.9% of patients reported their experience of their practice as being good – a reduction of 0.8 percentage points on the previous year. Some 67.4% of patients said their experience of making an appointment was good – a 1.2 percentage points reduction.
British Medical Association GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: “An overwhelming 95% of patients have ‘confidence and trust’ in the practitioner they last saw. These high levels of satisfaction are a testament to how hard GPs and their teams are working in practices up and down the country and come against a backdrop of a rising population and diminishing GP numbers.”
He added: “With the launch of Primary Care Networks, and the introduction of additional practice-based staff, we hope that patients will receive quicker access to the right healthcare professional while freeing up GPs to see those who need their expertise most. In doing so, general practice can maintain the high levels of patient satisfaction it is so proud of.”
Royal College of GPs chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “It is testament to the incredible efforts of GPs and their teams that patient satisfaction in general practice has remained so high – especially given the intense resource pressures currently facing our profession and the strenuous circumstances our colleagues are working under.
“However, the knock-on effects of the pressures currently facing general practice are still clear, and patients are finding it increasingly difficult to access the services they need, when they need them, and this must be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
But Helen Buckingham, from the Nuffield Trust, said: “Our work shows that England is experiencing the first prolonged fall in GPs per person in fifty years and today’s GP Patient Survey shows the relentless impact this is having on patients. Measures of how easy it is to get an appointment are sliding across the board: fewer than a third of people who hoped to be seen on the same day actually experienced this. For the first time, less than half of people who have a preferred GP say that they are actually able make an appointment to see them.”
She added: “There is a glimmer of hope in the standard of care itself: despite these pressures, patients report GPs are still giving high quality consultations and have enough time to care.”