8 out of 10 patients are positive about GPs – new survey

As the NHS treats more patients than ever before, a new nationwide survey shows the majority of people are positive about their GP care – with almost 85 per cent rating their overall experience of their GP surgery as good.

The 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, including 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.

The majority of patients (84.3%) say they were able to get an appointment the last time they tried and around seven in ten patients (68%) say it is 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 almost three in four patients (77.4%) would recommend their GP surgery to someone who has just moved to the local area and 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 (up 3.8% on last year to 36.1%), ordering repeat prescriptions (up 2.6% to 34.1%) and access to medical records (up to 8.9%).

However, it also suggests areas for improvement, with 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 can usually see their preferred GP dropping to 46.2% – down by 2.4% on last year.

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 that will stabilise and transform general practice, manage demand on services and expand the workforce.

“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.”

Key Findings:

  • 84.8% described the overall experience of their GP surgery as good.
  • 72.7% of patients rated their overall experience of making an appointment as good – a slight decrease on last year’s results. But 84.3% of patients said they were able to get an appointment the last time they tried and of those 92% said their appointment was fairly or very convenient.
  • Of everyone who wanted a same day appointment, 69.4% got one – down just 0.2% on last year but up 1.1% on 2012.
  • 77.4% would recommend their GP surgery to someone who just moved into their local area.
  • 46.2% of patients said they have a GP they prefer to see or speak to.  This is 2.4% down on the 2016 survey findings
  • Of those who have a preferred GP, more than half 55.6% said that they see or speak to them a lot of the time, almost always or always.  This is 2.8% lower than last year.
  • 76.2% of patients are satisfied with the hours their GP surgery is open and 75.8% of patients said their surgery is open at times that are convenient for them.
  • Overall awareness of online services has increased in the last year with36.1% of respondents aware their practice offers online appointments and 34.1% aware of being able to order repeat prescriptions.

The Next Steps on the Five Year Forward View document published in March 2017 includes key commitments to general practice:

  • By March 2018, 50% of the country will benefit from extended access to GP appointments at evenings and weekends, 10% higher than the mandate commitment.
  • By March 2019 this will extend to 100% of the country.
  • Boost GP numbers: the Government has set an objective of an extra 5,000 doctors working in general practice by 2020. Numbers entering GP training are up by 10% since 2015 and HEE will fill a further 230 places in 2017/18 to ensure they reach 3,250 trainees per year.

View the GP Patient Survey data publications