More than 80% of patients report 'good' overall experience of general practice

Public satisfaction with GP services remains high, with 82% of patients reporting a good overall experience of general practice, according to the 2020 GP patient survey.

Patient survey (Photo: Kasayizgi/Getty Images)
Patient survey (Photo: Kasayizgi/Getty Images)

The high rate of satisfaction revealed by the survey - carried out between January and March 2020 - comes despite rising demand for GP services, a workforce shortage and warnings from the BMA that the profession faces 'persistent underfunding'.

However, satisfaction has slipped slightly in recent years - with the 82% figure for 2020 down from 84% of patients saying services were good overall in the 2018 survey, and 83% in 2019.

The latest survey found that 43.6% of patients rated their experience of general practice as 'very good', while 38.2% said it was 'fairly good'. A further 11.2% said it was 'neither good nor poor', while 4.7% said it was 'fairly poor' and 2.3% said it was 'very poor'.

Patient satisfaction

The survey found that almost all patients (94.2%) felt their needs had been met at their last GP practice appointment and 95.3% had confidence and trust in the health professional they saw. These scores have remained almost unchanged over the past three years.

However, just over a quarter of patients said they had waited a week or more for an appointment after booking (26.4%) - slightly up from the previous year.

Meanwhile, 65.5% rated their overall experience of booking a GP appointment as 'good' - down from 67.4% in 2019 and 68.6% in 2018, suggesting that rising pressure on GP practices has taken a toll.

Rising numbers of patients are also reporting problems getting through to their GP practice on the phone - with 34.8% saying it was 'not easy' in the 2020 survey, almost double the 19.2% who said this in 2012.

COVID-19

The polling was carried out immediately before the UK entered lockdown amid the COVID-19 pandemic - driving practices to completely overhaul the way they see patients, with the vast majority of consultations now carried out remotely by video, telephone or online.

Polling by GPonline suggests that most GPs now believe half or more of consultations in general practice should continue to be provided remotely following the pandemic - and the proportion of patient contacts delivered shortly after booking has risen sharply.

The likelihood of a profound long-term shift in the way general practice sees patients could have a significant impact on the findings of patient surveys in years to come.

GPonline reported earlier this year that practices in England delivered on average 1.22m appointments per weekday in 2019, with millions more appointments overall compared with 2018.

GP workforce

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said the latest patient survey figures showed how hard GPs and practice teams had been working - and warned that increased investment and building the workforce were essential.

He said: ‘Practices have had to contend with rapidly increasing demand, growing workload pressures and longstanding challenges with workforce recruitment. In spite of this, they have been able to achieve very high levels of satisfaction from patients.

‘There will continue to be significant clinical and organisational challenges as GP practices work to care for their patients at the same time as dealing with the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. At this time it is more vital than ever that government ensure the necessary funding and support is provided to the medical professions who, in their response to COVID-19, have demonstrated what can be achieved when practices are given the trust, autonomy, flexibility and freedom to act as the leaders of the profession in local communities.'

Ruth Rankine, director of the NHS Confederation’s PCN Network, said: 'While the majority of patients continue to have a good experience of their GP practice, it will be interesting to see how the public has responded to a greater shift to online and telephone consultations as a result of COVID-19.

'As lockdown eases, it will be important for people to be able to access care in a way that meets their individual needs and recognises that for some, remote consultations will not be suitable.'

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