As questionnaires go out to more than two million people, NHS England’s Director of Primary Care and Deputy Medical Director explains why the annual GP Patient Survey is a key tool in assessing the impact of change:
NHS England’s GP Forward View published in April 2016 committed to an extra £2.4 billion a year to support general practice by 2020-21.
As part of this package, it offered help for struggling practices, support to reduce workload, expansion of the wider workforce, investment in technology and estates and other national initiatives to accelerate the transformation of general practice. In addition, it committed to improving access to general practice by providing evening and weekend appointments to everyone across the country by March 2019.
As a consequence, patients should expect more consistent and personalised experience of care.
With such significant changes to the landscape of general practice, it is more important than ever that the experience of patients is heard, and we do this through the UK’s largest healthcare survey, the GP Patient Survey (GPPS).
The cycle of activity for the survey begins this week as we seek the views of more than two million people who have been registered with a GP for more than six months. Each randomly-selected invitee is being sent a letter inviting them to complete a questionnaire. Fieldwork for the postal survey runs until the end of March and, for the first time, the survey includes 16 and 17 year olds.
The survey is independently run by Ipsos MORI on behalf of NHS England and it provides a unique insight into patients’ experiences, which can be used alongside other important data sources, to better understand the emerging impact of these changes.
It is important for practices and the wider NHS to find out what is working well and what could be improved so that services can continuously adapt to meet the needs of patients.
At the national level, the findings from the GP Patient Survey help NHS England to understand how well the primary care system is working for patients. In recent years the survey has shown decreasing satisfaction with access to GP services, and the data has helped NHS England build the case for greater investment in general practice.
The survey also helps NHS England to understand any differences in how different types of patient are experiencing general practice. The survey is used to monitor the experiences of different types of people, such as younger and older people or patients from different ethnic groups, which again helps shape policy and investment.
The results of the survey are published so that they can be seen and used by GPs and practice staff, local commissioners, and by patients and the public. The results are provided on the GPPS website at GP practice level, local commissioning group (CCG) level, and at national level.
The 2018 questionnaire has been substantially redesigned so that it will provide information to better assess the impact of recent policy developments in primary care. This includes new questions on improved access, the use of official online services and other websites, mental health, frailty and polypharmacy.
This re-development of the questionnaire took about a year. It involved engaging with over 250 people from across the health system as well as rigorously testing the questionnaire with patients and the public.
It is more important than ever that we hear from patients about their experience of general practice. The more people that complete the survey across England, the clearer the picture the NHS has about the impact of any changes – every response is important in building that picture.