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Patient experience of GP surgeries: it’s getting in that’s the problem

Blogged on the King's Fund Website (26 July): It is rare that any service hears from 800,000 of its users at the same time, but that is what happened recently with the publication of the GP Patient Survey. It is easy to dismiss this kind of survey, particularly when the results make difficult reading – the questions are wrong, it doesn’t reflect the right patients – but when this number of people have taken the time to give their views on the services they receive then we should take the time to listen to what they are telling us.

What they are saying will be giving cause for concern for national policy-makers. For the past five years the scores for many measures have dropped year on year, albeit often from a relatively high baseline. Some drops are larger than others, but overall there is a decline in patients’ experience of GP services. The percentage of patients who rate their overall experience as good has dropped from 88.4 per cent in June 2012 to 84.8 per cent in July 2017. The sheer size of the sample means that even one percentage point change is meaningful at a national level – a decline on this scale needs attention.

There is relatively little change in satisfaction with the care people received at their last appointment – eg, being given enough time, being listened to and having confidence and trust in the doctor or nurse. The care once people are in the practice does not seem to be the issue; it is getting in that is increasingly a problem.

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