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Fall in patient satisfaction due to crisis in general practice, says BMA

by Julie Griffiths
18 July 2022

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The fall in patient satisfaction rates revealed in the latest GP patient survey for England is due to the workforce crisis in general practice, says the BMA’s GP committee.

NHS England’s latest GP patient survey published last week revealed that patient satisfaction levels have gone down over the past year.

Only 56% said they had a ‘good experience of making an appointment’, compared with 71% in 2021.

Meanwhile, 72% of patients reported having an overall good experience of their GP practice, also a decrease from 83% in 2021.

Dr Farah Jameel, BMA England GP committee chair, said the findings were a ‘stark reflection of the capacity shortfall that general practice is facing’.

She said GP practices shared patients’ frustration when high-quality and timely care did not happen as expected.

‘We’ve been saying for years that general practice needs investment, more GPs, and more support to see as many patients as possible in a way which meets their needs. We too feel dissatisfied after years of under-investment, ever increasing workload, and a Government who has not been listening to us,’ said Dr Jameel.

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said the survey pointed to a service under unsustainable pressure.

‘These findings reflect an over-stretched service, with GPs and our teams doing our best for patients under intense workload and workforce pressures,’ he said.

Practice teams were ‘working flat out to deliver increasingly complex care to the rising numbers of patients that need it’, said Prof Marshall.

He said that while the complexity and intensity of GP workload is ever-growing, numbers of full-time, fully qualified GPs has fallen by 1,737 from September 2015 to May 2022.

‘Put simply, GPs don’t have the time or resources to deliver the type of care they want to deliver for their patients. Working at this intensity is unsustainable and it’s taking its toll on GP teams, who are burning out and feeling forced to evaluate their future commitment to general practice. Sadly, this is likely to get worse,’ said Prof Marshall.

The survey, which was published in July but covered January to April 2022, also revealed a decline in the number of patients who were satisfied with the appointment offered and which they accepted. It dropped from 82% last year to 72% in 2022.

Dr Jameel said general practice appointment bookings reached record highs over the winter and there were not enough doctors to safely meet demand.

‘There has been a failure of successive Governments to recruit enough GPs, and crucially retain those we’ve already got, leading to those staff that remain being forced to plug the gaps in the service,’ he said.

Dr Jameel noted that ‘it is testament to how hard our teams are working’ that more than 70% of the public still reported a good overall experience of their GP practice.

Prof Martin said the findings must be seen as ‘a wake-up call to Government and policy makers’.

The annual survey, conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of NHS England since 2007, polled 720,000 patients in England.