Patient confidence in GPs remains high despite difficulties getting appointments

More than 90% of patients say they have trust and confidence in their GP, according to the latest annual GP patient survey, despite growing numbers saying that they struggle to get appointments.

The Ipsos MORI poll of more than 800,000 patients for NHS England found 92% said they had confidence and trust in the last GP they saw, a very slight 0.3% decrease on last year.

Satisfaction rates in the survey remained high but showed a slight fall of around 1-2% across a number of measures in line with the trend over recent years.

On overall experience, 'very good' was 42.9%, down from 44.1% last year and 46.9% in 2012. Patients who rated their overall experience as ‘fairly good’ was 41.8%, down 0.2% on the figure for 2016.

Patients who were unable to get an appointment or speak to someone the last time they tried rose 0.4% to 11.3%, while 20% of those who could get an appointment had to wait a week or more. GP leaders said the numbers reflected the effects of pressures on the service. 

The number of patients who said they would ‘definitely’ recommend their GP practice in 2017 was 46.9%, with 30.4% saying they probably would. That compares with 47.9% and 30.5% in 2016 and 51.8% and 30.2% in 2012. 

Satisfaction with opening hours also showed a slight fall of 0.9% of those who were ‘very satisfied’ at 36.9% compared with last year, with those ‘fairly satisfied’ unchanged at 39.4%.

Unsustainable pressures

Acting GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘Despite GPs and their practice teams working flat out to provide as good a service as they can and see as many patients as promptly as possible, 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.

‘It is reassuring that patients continue to have a high level of trust in doctors, and satisfaction with the care they receive, but with the NHS at breaking point, the government must implement a long term, sustainable plan to ensure there are enough GPs to see patients in need of care as promptly as possible.’

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: 'Our patients should be able to see a GP when they need to, so it’s very concerning that more people are having to wait for longer to get appointments with their GP or practice nurse. It is particularly worrying that some patients are deciding not to seek medical advice at all if they are not able to get an appointment initially.

'Unfortunately, what we are seeing now is the result of a decade of under investment in general practice which has led to a severe shortage of GPs, and it is our patients who ultimately bear the brunt.'

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