An independent survey of 17,000 people in Devon has shown overwhelming public backing for the county’s GP surgeries, with nearly nine in ten respondents reporting a good experience of their practice.
The study, by Ipsos Mori, also found that GP practices in Devon consistently performed better than the England average, and supports other recent research by the county’s NHS which found more than 90 per cent of people had been able to access a GP when they needed to.
The news has been welcomed by senior doctors and Healthwatch in the county, who have praised practice teams for maintaining high standards of service throughout the pandemic despite a 14% rise in demand for services and the extra pressure of giving hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 vaccinations to their patients.
The results of the national annual Ipsos Mori GP Patient Survey, which saw 16,990 people across Devon sharing their views on everything from booking appointments, waiting times, out-of-hours services and quality of care, were published this month. Key findings are:
• Nearly nine in ten (88%) people in Devon described their experience of their GP practice as good. This is up by 2% on last year and above the national average is 84%
• Nearly three quarters (74%) said it was easy to get through to someone at the practice on the phone. This is also up on last year’s figure (%) and above the national average is 68%
• 92% said receptionists were helpful. National average is 89%
• 87% satisfied with the appointment offered. National average is 82%
• 69% saw someone for a face-to-face appointment
• 87% of people were satisfied with the appointment they were offered. The national average was 82%.
Dr Paul Johnson, Clinical Chair of NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for planning and paying for GP practices in the county, said: “This is a massive vote of confidence in the county’s GP practices and I am extremely proud of the level of service they offer to people in Devon. Every year patient satisfaction levels improve, often much higher than then national average, and this year is no exception.
“I know general practice teams across Devon have worked extremely hard over the last year and I know how dedicated they are to their patients, but with the challenges, changes and increased demand they have faced over the last year that has been out of their control, the results could have been very different.
“Yet despite that, we can demonstrate that we have still been able to offer an extraordinary service in general practice that is well-received by our patients and supported by first-hand experiences.”
The CCG will be working with local practices and identifying actions that need to take place. This will include learning from the highest rated practices about what works for them and sharing best practice, as well as identifying which practices need further support.
Jane Milligan, Chief Executive of the CCG and the Integrated Care System for Devon, said: “The national GP Patient Survey is an extremely valuable tool for us when it comes to understanding people’s experience of general practice.
“Over the last twelve months GP practices have had to make some changes in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, it is more important than ever that we hear from people about their experiences of local NHS services.
“GPs have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic responding to a 14% rise in demand for primary care, as well as vaccinating hundreds of thousands of people against Covid-19. They have played a huge part in the vaccine programme, which is allowing lockdown restrictions to be lifted.
“We know there will be times when some people have to wait longer than they or we would have liked, but the survey outcomes show just what a good job GPs are doing and that the vast majority of patients are able to access treatment in a timely way.”
Devon CCG also tested local people’s experiences through its Virtual Voices Panel in May 2021. The research found that the vast majority (90 per cent) of people reported that they had been able to see a GP locally when they needed to. The CCG followed this up with an open letter to the people of Devon.
In the 2020/21 financial year, more than 4 million face to face appointments were held in Devon, in addition to 2.7 million telephone appointments and half a million online appointments.
Pat Harris, Strategic Lead for Healthwatch in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay, said: “These excellent survey results are commendable. It is a testament to the hard work of our GP Practices in Devon that the majority of the scores are higher than the national average, particularly during an incredibly challenging year for all health and care services.
“We congratulate all the highly-rated practices across Devon, Plymouth and Torbay and thank them for their hard work keeping patients safe during the Coronavirus outbreak.
“Whilst these results are very encouraging, we have received patient feedback regarding some areas relating to access that are not as positive, and we are working closely with the CCG to ensure learning is made from this feedback.
“As health and social care services start to recover from the pandemic, there will be pressure on all providers to meet the demand for local people accessing their services. Public feedback such as this survey will be very important moving forward so that providers and commissioners of services can capture what is working well and what may need to be improved. We therefore hope GP patients continue to share their feedback, whether directly with the Practice or independently through your local Healthwatch.”
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