High satisfaction scores must not mask pressure on GPs, BMA warns

General practice is being worked to breaking point, the BMA has warned, as a survey found satisfaction in the service is at an all-time low - although it remains higher than for any other part of the NHS.

Dr Mark Porter: pressure on NHS
Dr Mark Porter: pressure on NHS

Patient satisfaction with general practice across England, Scotland and Wales fell to 71% for 2014, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey. This is higher than for any other NHS service in 2014, but the lowest rate recorded for general practice.

Overall satisfaction with the NHS rose to its second highest level ever, from 60% to 65%, according to the survey, published by the King’s Fund think tank. This coincides with a drop in dissatisfaction to an all-time low of 15%.

BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter warned that general practice is being worked to ‘breaking point’, resulting in GPs struggling against patient demand, staff shortages and insufficient resources.

He said: ‘The satisfaction rates for GP services remain the highest of any part of the NHS, but any government should be concerned that overall rates are slipping under their watch. GPs are working harder than ever before, but they simply do not have enough staff, funding and suitable facilities to deliver the services and care that all GPs want to see.’

Political support

The survey results come just 100 days before the next general election, in which the NHS is increasingly becoming a key issue.

John Appleby, chief economist at the King’s Fund, said the rise in NHS satisfaction may represent voters ‘supporting the NHS as an institution’ at a time when they perceive it to be ‘under threat’ from the looming election.

There was a larger increase in satisfaction among those who had no recent personal or familial contact with the NHS (11%) than those who had (4%), which may support this view. Analysis of the data shows support increased more in Labour supporters than those voting for the other major parties.

He said: ‘Public satisfaction with the NHS is high and has risen significantly, despite a year in which the service hit the headlines for financial pressures and difficulties with A&E waiting times. But as well as an actual increase in satisfaction, this may in part reflect a desire among the public to show support for the NHS as an institution.’

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