Satisfaction with GP services hits 35-year low - but remains above most of NHS

Public satisfaction with GP services has slumped to a 35-year low according to the British Social Attitudes survey - but satisfaction with GPs remains higher than for almost any other part of the NHS.

Satisfaction with GP services dropped to 65% in 2017 - down seven percentage points compared with the previous year, in the 'biggest one-year change' since the survey began in 1983.

Dissatisfaction with general practice rose to an all-time high, up to 23% in 2017 compared with 17% the year before, according to the survey carried out by the Nuffield Trust and King's Fund think tanks.

The drop in satisfaction with general practice came against a backdrop of sharply falling overall views of the NHS - with 57% of respondents saying they were satisfied overall with the NHS, down seven percentage points from the previous year. Public dissatisfaction with the NHS rose to 29% in 2017 - the highest level for a decade.

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Despite the drop in satisfaction with GP services, a higher proportion of patients were satisfied with general practice than with any other part of the NHS apart from outpatient services - which also scored 65% satisfaction.

However, the report says general practice is 'for the first time since the survey began' not the highest-rated service, because dissatisfaction with it is markedly higher than with outpatient care.

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'It is unsurprising that public satisfaction with the NHS has dropped. The reality for patients and staff is that we now have a consistently overstretched health service, running at capacity and in a state of crisis year-round.

'General practice, in particular, is facing an unprecedented crisis. GPs are carrying out 40m more consultations than a decade ago and are struggling from a combination of rising demand, limited resources and a recruitment crisis. Patients are unfairly bearing the brunt of such significant shortfalls with longer waiting times for appointments.'


RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: 'This is extremely distressing news for hard-pressed GPs and their teams who are working flat-out to do the very best they can for their patients in increasingly difficult circumstances.

'But while we are very disappointed in these figures, they are hardly surprising as what we are seeing now is symptomatic of the inevitable effects of a decade of underinvestment in our family doctor service – and just not having enough GPs in the system to meet demand.'

King's Fund fellow Ruth Robertson said: 'The drop in public satisfaction with the NHS is significant, especially as it comes amid widespread political concern about the future of the service. Just as striking is that satisfaction with general practice has slumped to its lowest levels since the survey started in 1983. This reflects the huge pressure on general practices, which are struggling to meet growing demand and recruit enough GPs.'

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