Nine in ten (91%) patients are satisfied with the overall care they receive at their GP surgery, according to results of the GP Patient Survey, released today (Tuesday 30 June 2009) – yet there is still room for improvement, the Department of Health (DH) has said.
The DH, which commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct the £8m survey – the biggest healthcare survey of its kind – points to getting through on the phone and being able to make appointments more than 48 hours in advance as areas where practices can improve.
This is despite the fact that, overall, 84% of people who tried to get an appointment with a GP in 48 hours reported they were able to do so, and 70% of people reported satisfaction with their ability to get through to their practice on the phone.
Just 7% of respondents nationwide said they were dissatisfied with their GP surgery's opening hours – with 82% saying they were satisfied or very satisfied (43%).
Perhaps surprisingly, given that more than three-quarters of practices have now satisfied the government's end-of-2008 target of longer opening hours, this figure is actually lower than the 84% who were satisfied with opening times in 2007.
Despite the high level of satisfaction here, the DH says the survey "shows a clear need to improve access to services", and advises practices to look at these results to identify their patients' concerns.
Commenting on the results of the GP Patient Survey, Health Minister Mike O'Brien said: "The GP Patient Survey is one of the most valuable tools we have for measuring what patients think of their GP practice.
"I congratulate the vast majority of surgeries who are performing well, but it's clear some surgeries now need to look at these results and identify the areas where patients are still dissatisfied.
"In particular, this year's results show there is work to be done in improving telephone access to surgeries and making it easier for patients to book appointments in advance."
For the first time this year, patients were asked their views on topics other than access, including their view of practice receptionists. The vast majority – 94% of respondents – said they find their receptionist to be helpful, with more than half (58%) saying they are very helpful.
One area that revealed significantly less satisfaction was out-of-services – just 67% of patients said they would know how to contact an out-of-hours GP service if they needed to, when their surgery was closed.
And compared to the 91% of patients satisfied with the care they receive at their GP surgery, the survey revealed only 66% of patients rate the care they received from the out-of-hours service as "good", with 13% rating this as "poor".
To help practices respond to the feedback their patients give them, the DH will this week publish its Provider Guide on Access and Responsiveness. The guide was developed in partnership with the RCGP, the BMA and a range of other groups to ensure it meets the needs of practices.
It includes examples of best practice, such as the Saltaire Medical Practice in Bradford, which introduced online appointment booking, making it easier for patients to book, cancel and check details of appointments, and freeing up phone lines so that patients who did need to speak to the practice found it faster and more convenient.
The DH says that while GPs are increasingly offering patients more ways to contact surgeries such as by email or online, the profession needs to consider how to best do this and make sure that those without internet access also find it as easy to contact their surgery.
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"No one is perfect and so there is always room for improvement but we have to be careful that patients' expectations are not raised to unsustainable levels. This is still a cash limited service and if we have to make choices about on what money is spent, we must ensure the direct clinical care is top of the list. Please will someone in government start concentrating on clinical matters rather than these political imperatives?" - Name and address supplied