A fifth of patients say GP opening times are not convenient

Patient satisfaction with GP access is declining


Data released by the National Audit Office (NAO) today reveals that patient satisfaction with GP access is ‘gradually and consistently declining’, with a fifth of patients reporting that opening hours are not convenient.

Demand for general practice is increasing due to a growing and ageing population, but the Department of Health and NHS England do not have up-to-date data to estimate the number of consultations.

However the organisations that the NAO spoke to considered that general practice is under increasing pressure, with demand rising by more than capacity.

The report found  ‘considerable variation’ in access between different patient groups;  for example, older patients were more likely than younger patients to report that they were able to access appointments. People from a white ethnic background also reported better access than those from other ethnic groups.

There are also huge differences between the experiences of those in rural areas and those in towns and cities; only 1 per cent of people in urban areas do not have a GP surgery within two kilometres, compared with 37 per cent in rural areas.

The NAO also noted that differences in GP practices’ working arrangements affect the proportion of patients who can get appointments.

Problems in recruiting and retaining GPs are increasing, with 12 per cent of training places in 2014/15 remaining unfilled. GPs make up only 29 per cent of the general practice workforce, so are unlikely to be able to deal with the rising demand for services alone and practices are increasingly relying on other staff to help meet demand.

The report finds that ‘distribution of general practice staff across the country does not reflect need’, with the combined number of GPs and nurses in each local area ranging from 63 to 114 per 100,000 weighted population. Deprived areas tend to have a lower ratio of GPs and nurses to patients, making it more difficult for patients to get appointments.

The NAO recommends that NHS England should improve the data it collects on demand and supply in general practice, and research how different practices’ appointment-booking and other working arrangements contribute to the variations seen in access.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said today:

“Against the background of increasing demand and pressure on NHS resources, the challenge is how to maintain people’s positive experience of accessing general practice and reduce variation.

“The Department of Health and NHS England are working to improve access, but are making decisions without fully understanding either the demand for services or the capacity of the current system.

“Better data is needed so that decisions about how to use limited resources to best effect are well-informed.”

 Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

9 Responses to “A fifth of patients say GP opening times are not convenient”

  1. /O43 |_|K19!!

    NHS should be for the patients and accountable to the taxpayers. Doctors etc are just hired help. None of them do it for free and none of them are heroes for simply doing their job.

  2. Jingoistic

    I hope you will like it when you have to pay just to visit your GP when the NHS is Privatised.

  3. JohnRich

    Back in the 50s & 60s GPs surgeries were always open in the evenings.

    Reform of surgery opening times should be part of the 24×7 NHS changes.

  4. Bosun Higgs

    If you are really ill, you need to be in a hospital, where they have the expertise and equipment to treat you. If you are not really ill, you need to be tucked up in bed with a hot water bottle and a glass of Lem-Sip. GPs deal with anything in between.

  5. Bosun Higgs

    That’s a complete non sequitur from the original post.

  6. AlanGiles

    It’s the result of Cameron and Osborne and their ridiculous “more for less” nonsense. You cannot do more for less, you can only do less for less – not even time for the full “box ticking” exercise

  7. AlanGiles

    “Doctors etc are just hired help.”

    What an otiose comment. They are trained for five years and continue to update their skills throughout their working lives. We can’t do with out them, especially if we are ill. I am quite sure though we could do without anonymous and inconsequential trolls like you

  8. Mark Frankel

    This is an evidence-based blog so let’s look at the evidence. Firstly, we have a headline sound-bite from the National Audit Office that 20% of a survey population say that opening times are not convenient. But is what the 20% say true? Did the NAO probe beneath the opinions expressed to see whether there was any hard evidence for them. Anyway, as Ruby makes clear, there are variations in the reported experiences of different patient groups, so it is further open to question how meaningful the headline sound-bite is. Secondly, my own experience of local NHS services – in Kingston upon Thames – is that they are excellent, though I realise other areas may not be so well served. It’s fair to say that good data are needed so the NHS can plan to best effect, particularly the change to 24/7 service (which I can testify from my own experience would be a good move) but beware of auditors bearing sound-bites.

  9. Dave Stewart

    “for a gp you have to do your 5year degree, 2 foundation years, then 3years vocational training before you become fully qualified”- from google

    So that’s 10 years to become a GP from starting Uni.

    Just hired help is absurd. Without doctors there would be no NHS, they are somewhat pivotal so describing them as “just hired help” is a little silly.

    @Alan- replied to the wrong comment. sorry.

Leave a Reply