Express & Star

Three-quarters of people ‘have good experience’ of their GP practice – poll

The poll, commissioned by the NHS, found only half of respondents in England thought it was easy to contact their surgery by phone.

Dr Laurence Buckman checks a patient’s blood pressure in his practice room at the Temple Fortune Health Centre GP Practice near Golders Green, London

Three-quarters (74%) of patients have a good overall experience of their GP practice, according to poll of almost 700,000 people.

Some 90% had their needs met at their last appointment, while 92% said they had confidence and trust in the healthcare professional at their last appointment.

The poll, covering patients in England and commissioned by the NHS, found only half (50%) of respondents thought it was easy to contact their surgery by phone, slightly more than those who said it was easy to use the practice website (48%) or the NHS app (45%).

More than a third (38.2%) of patients found it difficult to contact their GP practice on the phone.

The poll also found that 66% of people felt the wait for their most recent GP appointment was “about right”, while nearly three-quarters (72%) said they knew what the next step would be within two days of contacting the practice.

Overall, 83% said that the reception and administration team at their surgery were helpful.

It is still the case that a majority of people contact their surgery by telephone – just over two-thirds (68%) said they used the phone to make their most recent appointment, 17% online and 14% in person.

Two thirds (66%) of people said the length of time they waited for their appointment was about right, while around one third (34%) said it took too long to get the appointment.

Due to a change in methodology, the survey cannot be compared with the previous year.

Beccy Baird, senior fellow at the King’s Fund, said: ‘For many patients, the front door to the NHS feels hard to unlock and voters have been telling politicians and pollsters that getting a GP appointment was high on their list of concerns.

“But there are glimmers of hope in this year’s survey of around 700,000 patients.

“Despite planned changes to the survey which mean it is hard to compare with previous years, it does seem as though people’s overall satisfaction with their GP practice has slightly improved with 74% of people reporting that their overall experience of their GP practice was good.

“GP practices are delivering more appointments each day than ever before but the sheer scale of demand is clearly impacting patients’ ability to get an appointment.

“Despite recent efforts to make it more straightforward for patients to book an appointment, less than half of patients found it easy to contact their practice via phone, app or website and more than a third (34%) said they had to wait too long for their appointment. There is clearly still much to be done to support practices to improve access.

“But staff working in general practice should take heart that patients are satisfied with the quality of services they receive when they do get an appointment.”

The poll found just 56% of patients reported a good experience of using NHS services when their surgery was closed.

Pharmacies, however, scored very highly, with 87% of people saying they had a good overall experience of using them, while dental services scored 69%.

Will Pett, head of policy and research at Healthwatch England, said: “We are calling for people to be given real choices when booking appointments and for GP numbers to be made free to call.

“We would like to see more help given to get people to and from appointments, so that cost is never a barrier and access can be as easy as possible for everyone.

“Hiring more administrative staff and care navigators is also vital.

“This will help people to book appointments, manage their referrals and prescriptions, and enable GP teams to keep online services open 24/7.”

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