Survey reveals falling number of patients satisfied by GP care

Health Secretary Shona Robison
Health Secretary Shona Robison
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The number of patients who believe they have a positive experience when it comes to the care they are given by GP practices has fallen over the last few years, a newly published document reveals.

According to the Scottish Government’s 2017/18 Health and Care Experience survey found that 83 per cent of those survey rated their care positively, a decrease of two percentage points compared to the previous survey and a decrease of seven percentage points compared to the first survey in 2009/10.

The percentage of people who said that they had a say in how their help, care or support was provided also decreased from 83 per cent in 2013/14 to 76 per cent in 2017/18.

More than 130,000 people were questioned for the survey, which also found a decrease in the proportion of carers who felt supported to continue caring.

Just 37 per cent of carers said they felt supported to continue caring - a decrease from 43 per cent from 2013/14.

One in 20 (five per cent) of those surveyed ranked the care provided by their GP practice as “poor” or “very poor” - up from two per cent eight years ago.

The 2017-18 survey also found 87 per cent of people found it easy to contact their GP practice, while more than nine out 10 (93 per cent) were able to get an appointment within two days.

Over two thirds of people (67 per cent) rated the arrangements for getting to see a doctor positively, down from 70 per cent in 2015-16 and 81 per cent in 2009-10.

Fewer people reported being able to book appointments three working days or more in advance - with the proportion of patients able to do this falling from 77 per cent in 2015-16 to 68 per cent in 2017-18.

This is “significantly below” the 90 per cent standard set by the Scottish Government and NHS boards as part of local delivery plans.

The report said: “Often an individual’s first and only contact with the NHS is through their GP practice.

“It is vital therefore that every member of the public has ready and appropriate access to their local primary medical services to ensure better outcomes and experiences for patients.”

Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said the research showed the Scottish Government needed to increase funding for family doctors.

The MSP said: “This survey reveals just how crucial a role GPs play in the whole health service. Without them, the entire system would collapse.

“The SNP government should use this positive survey as a jolt to the system.

“It needs to increase the proportion of health funding they get, and make sure they’re equipped for the future challenges we’ve all been warned about.”

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton warned that patients were feeling the impact of a GP “crisis”.

He said: “We know a quarter of practices have vacancies, up from just 9% five years ago. GPs are working up to 90 hours in a typical week and under the SNP the number of GPs taking early retirement has trebled.

“That is why we urgently need to see the primary care workforce plan that is months late, despite doctors repeatedly warning that they are busier than ever.

“We also need to see a mental health practitioner in every local surgery, taking some of the pressure off GPs and ending the scandal of year-long waits for treatment.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “In the last year there has been a welcome rise in the number of people offered an urgent appointment at their GP practice within 48 hours, from 91 per cent to 93 per cent, with all health boards meeting the minimum standard of 90 per cent.

“The overall rating of care remains high and the new GP contract, backed by investment of £110 million this year, will ensure GPs can spend even more time with patients when they really need to see them.

“There will also be new investment in the wider multi-disciplinary teams to support GPs and improve patient care.”

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