Letters: Extended hours are not to everyone's satisfaction

I was interested in your article regarding the patient survey, and your interview with Mike O'Brien (GP, 10 July).

If he is so sure that the survey was accurate, I wonder if he can explain why patient satisfaction with opening hours was 84 per cent in July 2007, but following a lot of pressure resulting in the majority of practices providing extended hours, it has fallen to 82 per cent? My own practice, which has not adopted extended hours, continues with a satisfaction rate of 85 per cent.

Surely, if Mr O'Brien really wants us to respond to patient demand, and he truly believes in the survey, he should be demanding practices stop providing extended hours? Dr Grant Ingrams, Coventry

Reply from the DoH

The survey results for 2007/8 and 2008/9 are not directly comparable due to changes to the survey.

Eighty-two per cent expressed satisfaction with opening hours this year. The remaining 18 per cent includes those who did not express an opinion or did not know about opening hours, as well as those who expressed dissatisfaction.

If we exclude those who did not express an opinion, 92 per cent of patients responded that they were either very satisfied or fairly satisfied with the hours their GP surgery was open.

Therefore, levels of satisfaction with opening hours are very high, reflecting the efforts of GP practices and PCTs to deliver to patients more convenient access to routine appointments at times that suit them - early in the morning, in the evening or at weekends.

The questions now reflect and report actual patient experience more accurately. This does not make last year's results less accurate but, as a consequence of these improvements, we are not able to directly compare results from the current survey to the past baseline.

Finally Facebook has a legitimate purpose

A young man who had been at a music festival presented with a history of unilateral epiphora. The eye was quiet with minimal irritation and he was advised on the symptomatic treatment of allergic phenomena.

Further history revealed a recurrent oral herpetic lesion and at a subsequent consultation he reported comments from Facebook contacts that his face had looked unusual in photographs from the event. Although improvement was rapid, it was clear that the reason for his initial presentation had been a resolving Bell's palsy, which, in the absence of networked photographs may not have been apparent.

I am persuaded that there may be a useful function of this facility after all.

Dr Mark Hoole, Andover, Hampshire

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