GPs maintain high patient satisfaction despite rising demand

The vast majority of patients are satisfied overall with their NHS GP service despite rising pressure on practices, the latest GP patient survey reveals.

GP appointment (Photo: SolStock/Getty Images)
GP appointment (Photo: SolStock/Getty Images)

A total of 83% of patients were satisfied with their overall experience of GP services - rating them very good or fairly good, the 2019 survey found. This was down slightly on the previous year's figure of 84%.

The findings came as NHS England set out plans to carry out a review of access to general practice, which 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'.

More than nine in 10 patients had 'confidence and trust' in the healthcare professional they saw during their last GP practice appointment, the GP patient survey found. Around nine in 10 respondents also said GPs gave them enough time, listened and involved them in decisions about their care.

GP appointments

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey 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.'

NHS England acting director of primary care Dr Nikita Kanani said: 'Family doctors in England see nearly 1m people every day and this survey shows they appreciate the fantastic job they do alongside other practice staff such as nurses and pharmacists.'

Around two thirds of respondents to the patient survey said they were satisfied with the GP appointment times available to them, and a similar proportion rated their overall experience of booking a GP appointment as good.

But NHS England pointed out that GPs 'continue to face pressure and increasing demand', and warned that 'some patients were waiting longer than they would have liked to see their GP'.

GPonline revealed this week that of the more than 300m GP appointments delivered by practices in England every year, 211m are delivered within a week of booking.

Online booking

The survey showed a rise in numbers of patients booking GP appointments online, with 14% of patients now using practice websites to do this.

Dr Kanani highlighted ongoing investment in general practice and primary care, with primary care networks (PCNs) expected to recruit 20,000 staff including physiotherapists and pharmacists to support practices over the coming five years. She said the arrival of new staff would 'free up family doctors to care for the sickest people'.

Dr Vautrey 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 PCNs, and the introduction of additional practice-based staff, we hope that patients will receive quicker access to the right healthcare professional.'

The GPC chair also welcomed the review of GP access as a chance to improve 'the wellbeing and work satisfaction of those delivering care as well as improving the accessibility and quality of care for our patients'.

More than 770,000 patients responded to the 2019 GP patient survey.

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