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Public GP satisfaction ‘deeply worrying’ as figures hit lowest since records began

Public satisfaction with GP services is at its lowest since official records began in 1983, with general NHS satisfaction dropping on last year.

Patients labelled staff shortages, government reforms, lack of funding, and long waiting times as the main reasons for rising dissatisfaction.

The figures are part of NatCen’s annual British Social Attitudes (BSA) study analysed by the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust, which also found that older people were significantly more satisfied with the health service than younger people.

Overall, public satisfaction hit 57% in 2017, indicating a 6pp drop from the year before – while dissatisfaction has risen to the highest level since 2007 (29%).

In terms of GP services specifically, figures show that public satisfaction has dropped by 7pp to 65%, the lowest since the survey first began in 1983.

Ruth Robertson, fellow at the King’s Fund, explained: “The results are not surprising given the pressures on general practice. These pressures are driven by increases in patient demand, caused by a range of factors including an increasing number of patients with multiple chronic conditions and complex needs, and a growing number of treatments available.

“The situation is exacerbated by a workforce crisis: more GPs and other primary care staff are needed, but GP numbers at the end of 2017 were lower than in 2015.”

In terms of general practice, Robertson said the government needs to look into new methods of delivering services if it is to hit its target of 5,000 new GP appointments.

While the survey revealed a generally negative consensus, people hailed the quality of care, attitudes and behaviour of staff, the range of services, and the fact that the NHS is free at the point of use, as some of the key reasons why they were satisfied with the service.

However, the results have prompted concern from many of those within the health sector, with NHS Providers deputy chief executive, Saffron Cordery, calling the figures “deeply worrying.”

“The shift in public mood has been a long time coming,” she commented. “We have argued forcefully that the NHS has reached a watershed moment, because despite the best efforts of trusts and frontline staff, it can no longer meet the standards of care set out in its constitution with the resources available.

“In particular we have highlighted concerns over staff shortages and a lack of funding. It is clear that despite continued unwavering support for the underlying principles of the NHS, the public is increasingly worried about these problems.”

Cordery also registered concerns that satisfaction has continued to slip across all age groups despite the service celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, which “should be a moment of national pride and optimism for a cherished institution.”

The Providers boss repeated calls for the government to put in place sustainable long-term health and social care funding to deal with the issues.

Professor John Appleby, chief economist and director of research at the Nuffield Trust, added: “We know that public dissatisfaction is increasingly driven by concerns over funding and staffing levels and they’re right to be anxious.

“As the NHS celebrates its 70th year, the government needs to put the NHS on a sustainable financial footing so it can continue to provide the same high quality, free at the point of use care that it is valued for by the general public.”

Top image: Eunika Sopotnicka

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Malcolm   03/03/2018 at 18:08

I have visited my surgery on a monthly basis for the past year and was the only person in the waiting room on 7 occasions at 0930 am. I did ask a staff member why and she replied that the GPs were responding to request for consultations at the surgery for that day by phone and those that met the criteria for a GP consultation were seen at the surgery after 11am. The remaining patients were evidently phone diagnosed. I have made 3 phone calls to see a Gp this year and have not been successful only to speak to a GP on 2 occasions and with a nurse on the other occasion she also making a Telephone diagnosis. So the reason for self referrals increasing to A&E are very evident. If the Doctors saw patients at 0830 in the surgery then probably the reduction in those attending A&E would be reduced somewhat. What am i in the Surgery? for to get bloods taken by the health care assistants who are very nice. It does seem to me that a very high percentage of request to see a Gp are being put to a nurse to diagnose or for GPs to diagnose over the phone. No doubt i would be very surprised if my surgery were the solo ones practising this poor treatment of care leading to a sharp drop in patient satisfaction rates falling dramatically and the associated increase in none life threatening attendances at the A&E Depts or minor injury clinics continuing to rise.

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