Despite widely reported problems with the NHS, including claims it is on the brink of collapse, most people in England remain happy with the service from their local GP surgery.
That’s according to the results of a new nationwide survey, which shows almost 85% of respondents rating their overall experience of their GP surgery as good.
The NHS England ‘GP Patient Survey 2017’ compiled responses from more than 800,000 people across the country on their experience of healthcare services provided by GP surgeries. Issues covered by the survey included access to GPs, making appointments, the quality of care received from GPs and practice nurses, satisfaction with opening hours and out-of-hours NHS services.
A significant majority of patients (84.3%) said they were able to get an appointment the last time that they tried and almost seven in ten patients (68%) said it was very or fairly easy to get through to someone at their GP surgery on the phone.
The survey found that confidence and trust in GPs remains extremely high at 91.9%, while more than three-quarters of patients (77.4%) would recommend their GP surgery to someone who has just moved to the local area. It also found that 72.7% of patients rated their overall experience of making an appointment as good.
There has also been a marked improvement in the awareness of online GP services, with more patients saying they are aware of how to book appointments online (up 3.8% on last year to 36.1%), order repeat prescriptions (up 2.6% to 34.1%) and access medical records (up to 8.9%).
The number of patients able to get a same-day appointment remained almost static at 69.4%, down just 0.2% on last year. More than three-quarters (76.2%) of respondents were satisfied with their GP surgery’s opening hours and 75.8% said their surgery was open at times that are convenient for them.
However, the survey also signposts some areas for improvement, with just over one in ten patients (11.3%) saying they weren’t able to get an appointment – an increase of 0.5% on the 10.7% in 2016. And the number of patients reporting they could usually see their preferred GP also dropped slightly to 46.2% – down by 2.4% on last year’s survey results.
Commenting on the latest results, Dr Arvind Madan, Director of Primary Care for NHS England, said: “General Practice is the foundation of the NHS and this survey shows patients appreciate the fantastic job GPs and the wider primary care work force are doing in times of real pressure, with more patients having increasingly complex conditions
“The findings also reinforce the case for investing in and strengthening primary care. We are just a year into the General Practice Forward View – a five-year plan committed to increasing investment in improving services, culminating in an extra £2.4 billion a year by 2020/21 to support primary care.
“Access to GPs is already expanding, with 17 million people now able to get an appointment in the evening and at weekends, and everyone will be able to by March 2019.”
Looking ahead, by next March at least half of patients across England should benefit from extended access to GP appointments at evenings and weekends, rolling out to cover all of the country by March 2019. The Government has also set a target to get an extra 5,000 doctors working in general practice by 2020. Numbers entering GP training are up by 10% since 2015 and Health Education England aims to fill a further 230 places in 2017/18 to reach its target of 3,250 trainees per year.