New survey results that show overwhelmingly positive patient experience of GPs and their teams, and high levels of confidence and trust, demonstrate just how hard they are working amid a rising population and declining GP numbers, the British Medical Association (BMA) said this morning. But the BMA also acknowledged that patients are increasingly having to wait too long for appointments, and said it hoped access to the right healthcare professional would be helped by the launch of primary care networks.
NHS England this morning published the results of the GP Patient Survey 2019, which compiled responses from 770,512 people across the country on their experience of the services provided by GP practices. The survey asked people about various aspects of general practice, including access to GPs, making appointments, quality of care received from GPs and other health professionals, waiting times, and satisfaction with opening hours and out-of-hours NHS services. Their answers revealed that:
- Nine out of 10 patients have “confidence and trust” in their family doctor as well as other general practice staff such as nurses and pharmacists.
- Four out of five said their GP treats them with “care and concern” and provides them with enough time to listen to their needs.
- Nine out of 10 felt involved in decisions about their care.
- 82.9% described the overall experience of their GP practice as good.
- 67.4% rated their overall experience of making an appointment as good.
- Of everyone who wanted a same day appointment, 62.1% got one.
- Of those who have a preferred GP, 48% said that they see or speak to them always, almost always, or a lot of the time.
- 73.6% were satisfied with the appointment they were offered.
- 77% of patients who have tried to use their GP practice website found it easy to access information or services.
- 69.5% waited less than 15 minutes to be seen following their appointment time.
- 69.5% reported a good experience of NHS services when they wanted to see a GP but their GP practice was closed.
- 91.1% of patients had confidence and trust in the people they saw or spoke to when their GP practice was closed.
Acting director of primary care for NHS England Dr Nikita Kanani noted that GPs in England see almost a million people every day, and said the survey shows patients’ appreciation of “the fantastic job they do”, but she also promised action to tackle the increasing number of people waiting longer than they would like to for appointments. She said: “We will look at making improvements to pre-bookable and same day GP appointments, reviewing patient feedback on face-to-face and online consultations, delivering greater choice and access to appropriate care for patients.”
She also pointed out that from 2021, all patients will have a new right to access their general practice through video consultations. And she noted that rising numbers of patients are now booking online, with 15% using GP websites to get an appointment; and 44% knowing that they can do so.
Dr Kanani said “record” investment in primary and community care would pave the way for the recruitment of 20,000 more specialist healthcare workers and professionals over the next five years to support general practice, including social prescribers, pharmacists, therapists, as well as clinical nurses, physician associates and community paramedics – and that this would “free up family doctors to care for the sickest people”.
BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey commented that the new survey figures “clearly demonstrate that the majority of patients remain satisfied with their experience at GP surgeries in England – with more than 80% rating this as good, only a minor fall on last year’s results. Meanwhile an overwhelming 95% of patients have ‘confidence and trust’ in the practitioner they last saw.”
He said: “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. Indeed, other data released today show that practices are now caring for 720,000 more patients than they were this time last year, while according to the most recent figures the number of full-time equivalent GPs has fallen by more than 400.”
But he added: “We recognise that patients are often waiting too long for appointments, and this is equally frustrating for GPs and their teams. 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.”