Patient satisfaction with general practice has stayed relatively high in 2020, despite increasing demand, added workload pressures and a shrinking GP workforce, a recent survey has found.
In NHS England’s latest GP Patient Survey of 740,000 people in England, carried out between January and March, 82% said their overall experience of their GP practice has been ‘good’ or ‘very good’.
These figures, capturing the views of patients just prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, represent a slight dip in satisfaction levels from recent years, down from 83% in 2019 and 84% in 2018.
Two-thirds of respondents rated their experience of booking appointments as positive, a 2% decrease from 2019. Patients seemed to find it more difficult to get through to their GP practice on the phone, with only 65% rating this experience as easy, a 3% drop from last year.
More than half (63%) of patients said they were ‘satisfied’ with the appointment times available to them, almost a 2% decrease from 2019. However, the majority (89%) said the receptionists at their GP practice were ‘helpful’, similar to the 2019 survey.
The vast majority of patients (95%) to the 2020 survey also said they have confidence and trust in their clinicians and 94% felt their needs were met during their previous appointment.
Patients, for the most part, also ‘felt involved in decisions about their care and treatment’ and ‘felt healthcare professionals recognised and understood their mental health needs’.
Responding to the survey findings, Dr Richard Vautrey, Chair of the BMA GP Committee, called for recognition of the ‘remarkable achievements’ made by practices during the coronavirus pandemic, accompanied by additional investment and workforce expansion.
He said: ‘Practices have had to contend with rapidly increasing demand, growing workload pressures and long-standing challenges with workforce recruitment.
‘In spite of this, they have been able to achieve very high levels of satisfaction from patients. This is a sign of how hard GPs and their teams have worked to try to meet the needs of their patients, something that has continued to be the case in these unprecedented times.’
Dr Vautrey added that GPs will face ‘significant clinical and organisational challenges’ as they continue to provide care for patients while dealing with the ‘continued impact’ of the pandemic.
He said: ‘At this time it is more vital than ever that Government ensures the necessary funding and support is provided to the medical professions who, in their response to Covid-19, have demonstrated what can be achieved when practices are given the trust, autonomy, flexibility and freedom to act as the leaders of the profession in local communities.’
Last week, the RCGP mirrored calls for extra funding in general practice to prepare it for an ‘influx’ of patients and the long-term health consequences of Covid-19 in communities.
NHS England primary care medical director Dr Nikki Kanani said the pandemic provides an opportunity to ‘improve access’ by digital means.
Only 14% of people booked an appointment online (including on an app) in the previous year, with the vast majority either calling in or booking in person, according to the latest survey.
‘The coronavirus pandemic has radically altered the way patients use primary care services, giving us an opportunity to continue to improve access to high quality care, including greater use of convenient remote consultations, backed by £4.5bn of added investment by 2023/24.’