Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Patients' GP care ratings 'falling'

People are less satisfied with their overall experience of the GP surgery, the poll found

There is growing dissatisfaction with GP services, a new poll has suggested.

Patients' r atings of the services provided by family doctors have decreased across the board, according to the survey of 900,000 patients across England.

People are less satisfied with their overall experience of the GP surgery, how they make appointments and their out of hours care, the poll found.

And fewer people would recommend their practice to someone else, according to the GP Patient Survey.

The survey is sent out twice a year to over one million randomly selected adult patients who are asked for their views and experiences of primary care services.

While the levels of satisfaction have dipped, 85.7% of patients still rate their overall experience of their GP surgery as good.

But this is a 1 percentage point decrease from last year and 2.6 percentage points lower than June 2012.

The number of people who thought the experience of making an appointment was good dipped 1 .7 percentage points over the last year to 74.6%, the figures showed.

Satisfaction levels about out-of-hours GP services had dipped four percentage points since June last year to 66.2%.

Meanwhile, less than eight in 10 would recommend their GP surgery to someone who had just moved into their local area - a decrease of 1.3 percentage points since the results in June 2013 and 3.3 percentage points since June 2012.

Labour's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: " This survey confirms what Labour has been saying - that it is getting harder to get a GP appointment under David Cameron and there is growing public dissatisfaction with GP services.

"People are waiting days and even weeks for appointments and that is forcing people into A&E in record numbers.

"GP services are under intense pressure - it is a mess of ministers' making.

"But instead of supporting GPs, they propose to 'name-and-shame' to deflect blame from their own failings.

"No wonder GPs are so utterly demoralised with many opting to leave the profession."

Dr David Geddes, head of primary care commissioning at NHS England, said: "Overall, these results show that the majority of patients are positive about their GP services, which is testament to the hard work of GPs and their staff.

" But we need to recognise the continuing trend in what patients are telling us about access to services, particularly out of hours."

Last month, one of Britain's top family doctors warned that GP services were "imploding".

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association's general practitioners committee, said that in the last five years the number of patients seen by family doctors had increased by 40 million each year.

But despite the increase in workload, there had been a reduction in the number of family doctors and their share of the NHS budget was "dwindling", he said.

This had led to GPs providing a "conveyor belt of care at breakneck speed", he said.

Professor Nigel Mathers, honorary secretary of the Royal College of GPs, said: " GPs are still the most trusted professionals in the NHS and today's results are a tribute to the hard work and dedication of GPs across England.

"However, we are very concerned that some patients are finding it difficult to make a GP appointment when they want one. Every patient should be able to see their GP when they need to, and it is especially worrying that some patients did not manage to get an appointment at all.

"Over 90% of NHS patient contacts are managed in general practice - for just 8.39% of the NHS budget, the lowest share on record

"There are 40 million more consultations a year than there were five years ago and GPs are routinely working 11 hours a day and seeing between 40 and 60 patients a day to try and cope with the demand.

"We hope politicians take note and act on our calls for general practice to receive 11% of the NHS budget by 2017. This would allow us to recruit more GPs and offer more services and appointments for patients, so that we are able to give them the care that they need and deserve, when they want it."

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's GP committee, added: "It is encouraging that GPs have again achieved excellent patient satisfaction results, with feedback showing that the overwhelming majority of patients believe GPs are providing a good service.

"This is all the more remarkable when GPs and their practice teams are dealing with unsustainable workload pressures every day. GPs care deeply about the care they provide their patients, and are clearly putting patients first and doing their level best to provide the best possible care.

"However, it is a concern that the results show signs of slipping backwards. The Government must heed these early warning signs, together with the recent falling GP recruitment figures, and urgently invest in general practice. We must ensure we have more GPs and nurses to meet the growing needs of our patients and provide them with the care they deserve."

Health Minister Lord Howe said: "The vast majority of patients can get appointments and are satisfied with their GP but we know more needs to be done.

"This is why we are offering 7.5 million more people extra evening and weekend appointments as well as email and Skype consultations."

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