The majority of people in England are positive about their GP care but the number unable to get an appointment has risen, according to findings of the GP Patient Survey 2017.
Of more than 800,000 people questioned, 84.8 percent described the overall experience of their GP surgery as good, while confidence and trust in GPs remains extremely high at 91.9 percent.
Almost three in four patients (77.4 percent) said they would recommend their GP surgery to someone who has just moved to the local area and 72.7 percent of patients rated their overall experience of making an appointment as good.
The majority of patients (84.3 percent) were able to get an appointment the last time they tried and 68 percent think it is very or fairly easy to get through to someone at their GP surgery on the phone.
Also of note, there was an improvement in the awareness of online GP services, with more patients saying they are aware of how to book appointments (up 3.8 percent on last year to 36.1 percent), ordering repeat prescriptions (up 2.6 percent to 34.1 percent) and access to medical records (up to 8.9 percent).
On the downside, one in ten patients (11.3 percent) saying they weren’t able to get an appointment – an increase of 0.5 percent on the 10.7 percent in 2016, while the number of patients reporting they can usually see their preferred GP dropping to 46.2 percent – a 2.4 percent drop on last year.
“Our patients should be able to see a GP when they need to, so it’s very concerning that more people are having to wait for longer to get appointments with their GP or practice nurse. It is particularly worrying that some patients are deciding not to seek medical advice at all if they are not able to get an appointment initially,” said Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, in response to the figures.
“Unfortunately, what we are seeing now is the result of a decade of under investment in general practice which has led to a severe shortage of GPs, and it is our patients who ultimately bear the brunt.
"We need the pledges in NHS England’s GP Forward View – which includes an extra £2.4bn a year for general practice and 5,000 additional GPs – to be delivered as a matter of urgency so that our patients can see a GP when they need to and receive the quality care they deserve.”
Also commenting on the findings Dr Arvind Madan, director of Primary Care for NHS England, said they show 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,” and also “reinforce the case for investing in and strengthening primary care”.