As many as 89% of patients found their practice receptionists to be helpful, with nearly half (45%) finding them ‘very helpful’, the latest GP patient survey has revealed.
Published yesterday (8 July) by NHS England, the survey found that more than two thirds (68%) of patients found it ‘easy’ to contact their practice via the phone.
The figures, which are based on responses from 850,206 patients collected between 4 January and 6 April 2021, also showed that 71% of patients reported having a good experience booking an appointment.
And while nearly half (47%) of patients had a phone consultation when they last made an appointment – up from 10% in 2020 – 92% said ‘their needs were met at their last appointment’.
However, 42% said they avoided making a GP appointment in the last 12 months, with one-in-five (20%) saying they did so because they were worried about burdening the NHS.
A further 17% said they avoided general practice because they were worried about catching Covid-19.
However, almost three in five (58%) said they had not avoided making an appointment.
This comes after months of criticism that general practice closed its doors to patients during the pandemic: accusations which the BMA said were ‘extremely damaging’ to practice managers.
Managing ‘pent-up demand’
Responding to the figures, the King’s Fund warned that general practice will likely face a ‘crunch’ as patients return.
Beccy Baird, senior fellow at the King’s Fund, said: ‘As this pent-up demand starts to come back into the system many GPs, and other parts of the health and care system, are facing a capacity crunch.’
She added that the Government and NHS leaders need to consider ‘how general practice will be supported to work with other NHS and care services’ to make sure people continue to be able to access the care they need.
Meanwhile, the NHS Confederation described the situation as ‘concerning’, given that currently 5.3 million people are waiting for treatment.
‘We know that colleagues in primary care are working hard to address the backlog so that those who stayed away can be prioritised based on need,’ Dr Graham Jackson, GP and senior clinical advisor at the NHS Confederation, said.
He added that the Confederation has been working with national patient bodies to discuss the challenges in providing care to everyone who comes forward. ‘We know more must be done to streamline access and help patients navigate the system to access the most appropriate care,’ he said.