Patients 'less satisfied' with GPs

Fewer patients are finding it easy to book GP appointments, while trust in doctors and out-of-hours services has also fallen slightly, figures show.

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A survey revealed that 86.2% of patients rate their overall experience of their GP practice as good

Fewer patients are finding it easy to book GP appointments, while trust in doctors and out-of-hours services has also fallen slightly, figures show.

Thousands of patients across England took part in a poll to rate their GP care, with the results showing a drop in levels of satisfaction on 10 key questions over the last year.

The survey, from NHS England and Ipsos Mori, revealed that 86.2% of patients rate their overall experience of their GP practice as good, a 1.4% drop on 2012.

Some 75.5% of patients said their overall experience of making an appointment was good (a 2.4% drop on last year), while 73.9% found it easy to get through to their GP surgery on the phone (down 2.7%).

Just over two-thirds (64.2%) of patients said they definitely had confidence and trust in the last GP they saw (a 0.7% fall).

And 67.5% described their overall experience of out-of-hours GP services as good (a 3.3% drop).

The survey included responses from more than 943,000 people.

It found that, of those who could get an appointment at their surgery, 15% waited more than a week to be seen by a doctor, 32% were seen within a few days and 37% were seen on the same day.

More than four in 10 (43%) people did not know how to contact their out-of-hours service, while 57% did.

One in five people (22%) who did call out of hours said it was "not very easy" or "not at all easy" to contact them by phone. Some 76% thought it was "easy or fairly easy", down 3% on the previous year.

Meanwhile, 81% had confidence in the out-of-hours doctor they saw but 14% did not have any confidence or trust in the doctor "at all".

And more than a third (34%) of people thought it took "too long" to receive care from out-of-hours services, while 60% said it was about right.

Dr Mike Bewick, deputy medical director at NHS England, said: "As a GP myself, I know that patients rely on us to provide a high-quality service when they need it. I also know how busy GPs are and it is encouraging that 86% of people say their experience of their GP surgery is good.

"It is the views of our patients that are most important - namely, whether they feel they are getting the service they need when they need it. This survey provides important feedback that GPs and commissioners can use to put improvements in place.

"Overall, the results are slightly worse than last year and we need to look at this in detail. A lot of what the survey results show echoes what patients are already telling us needs to change, particularly access to a GP during and out of hours."

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: "It is a huge vote of confidence from our patients, that such a high percentage are reporting positive experiences at their GP surgery, with 92% saying they have confidence and trust in their GP and 86% rating their surgery 'very' or 'fairly' good.

"However, we can never be complacent and it is concerning that it remains the case that 15% of people booking appointments are having to wait a week or more to be seen. This backs up findings of a recent RCGP survey that showed more than 70% of GPs predict longer waiting times in the next two years, in part due to cuts in resources.

"The same survey also found that GPs are working longer hours than ever, making up to 60 patient contacts in a single day. This is not sustainable and it is not safe."